London Exhibition: SEE USSR. 7 JUNE – 31 AUGUST 2013. GRAD: Gallery for Russian Arts and Design. 3-4a Little Portland Street. London W1W 7JB
GRAD: GALLERY FOR RUSSIAN ARTS AND DESIGN OPENED IN CENTRAL LONDON THIS JUNE WITH SEE USSR, AN EXHIBITION OF RUSSIAN PROPAGANDA FROM THE 1920s AND 1930s. THE EXHIBITION IS JOINTLY CURATED BY GRAD AND IRINA NIKIFOROVA, CHIEF OF THE DEPARTMENT OF EUROPEAN AND AMERICAN ART OF THE 19th-20th CENTURY AT THE PUSHKIN STATE MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS IN MOSCOW, WITH INTOURIST POSTERS ON LOAN FROM UNIQUE COLLECTION OF ANTIKBAR POSTER GALLERY.
On Thursday, August 1 at 7pm GRAD presents readings and reminiscences of travels through the USSR in the 1960s and ’70s facilitated by Intourist, the Soviet organisation responsible for tourism and the commissioner of the posters included in SEE USSR. Speaker Nicholas Murray was in Moscow in July 1968 and will talk about his impressions and conversations during that month of international tension, when the Soviet Union invaded the Czech Republic to crush liberal political reforms. Also speaking about his experiences travelling with Intourist through the Southern Republics of Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan in 1977 is Richard Barling, a member of the GRAD exhibitions team and an expert in Russian art.
Visitors are welcome to contribute their own stories about travelling in Russia, and we look forward to a constructive and entertaining discusion of the strengths and weaknesses of the Soviet travel monopoly from the traveller’s point of view.
Wine and soft drinks will be served. To RSVP, please visit facebook.
SEE USSR deals with the flipside of Russian propaganda, showing a very different aspect of the country to that generally recognised. This is a Soviet Union at rest and at play, a country of leisure, comfort and luxury – the USSR through the looking glass. These posters contradict the image normally conjured up by the Western mind, transforming the communist land into a tourist haven, and showcasing the pre-war Soviet Union as an earthly paradise. Refuting the widespread belief that Stalin’s Soviet Union was a country almost completely closed to foreigners, SEE USSR reveals the advertising created through economic necessity in the 1930s by Intourist, the organisation responsible for foreign tourism. Extending the usual remit of the propaganda poster, these dramatic images, many in the Art Deco style, were not employed to educate the Bolshevik masses, but instead were extended to foreigners in an attempt to draw in funds desperately needed for industrialisation. Demonstrating the cultural bureaucracy’s intention to restrict the function of art to propaganda above all else, these compelling and beautiful graphic artworks nevertheless take their place in the great legacy of Russia’s artistic history.
THE TITLE OF THE EXHIBITION REFERENCES A SLOGAN FROM A NUMBER OF THESE SOVIET-ERA POSTERS, EXHIBITED IN LONDON FOR THE FIRST TIME TOGETHER WITH MAGAZINES, EPHEMERA FROM THE TOURSIM INITIATIVE AND CONTEMPORARY TEXTILES DESIGNED FOR INTERNAL PROPAGANDA PURPOSES. SEE USSR EXHIBITS THE GRAPHIC WORK OF EMINENT ARTISTS INCLUDING NIKOLAY ZHUKOV, SERGEY SAKHAROV AND MARIA NESTEROVA. ZHUKOV (1908-1973) IS KNOWN FOR HIS WORK AS A SUCCESSFUL PAINTER, PORTRAITIST AND ILLUSTRATOR. HE WAS WIDELY REGARDED AND HIS WORK HUGELY IN DEMAND BY PARTY OFFICIALS. HE WENT ON TO ILLUSTRATE THE FULL EDITION OF LENIN’S WORKS AND WAS AWARDED TWO USSR STATE PRIZES.
Textiles on loan from Trekhgornaya Manufactura offer a striking historical reflection of the period under discussion, revealing the most common type of ‘internal’ propaganda during that time, contrasting the leisured elegance of the Intourist scenes with images of industry, flight and the union of peoples under Lenin and Stalin.