The Soviet-era design exhibition at the Miami Design fair

The Soviet-era design exhibition at the Miami Design fair
Yareah Magazine

The Soviet-era design exhibition at the Miami Design fair in early December 2013. Interior Design for the Soviet Elite, 1930 – 1940.


Design Miami

Heritage International Art Gallery is the first Russian gallery to attend Design Miami, and it will make the first-ever exhibition of Soviet interior design in the United States.

This ground-breaking exhibition focuses on the critical period of 1930-1940, just before the outbreak of World War II. There will be rare examples of furniture made by leading Soviet designers for important government buildings, theaters, and other public institutions.

The exhibition features the two dominant styles of the period — the Soviet Art Deco (derived from Constructivism), and the Soviet Empire style that was used to glorify the new Soviet government. In fact, the Soviet Empire style was a direct result of the efforts of graphic designers who worked in the 1910s just before the collapse of the Czarist empire. So, in that sense, the Soviet Empire style was a return to the aesthetic of the Czarist empire.

Over the past six years, Heritage has earned a reputation as one of Russia’s leading art and design galleries. It cooperates closely with leading Russian art specialists and curators, and it has several main areas of focus. These include Russian modernist art of the 1920s, and interior design of the Soviet period.

“Heritage’s main mission is to return to Russia those cultural items that were lost or forgotten, and which disappeared either in Russia or ended up abroad due to the upheavals of the 20th century,’’ said Christina Krasnyanskaya, Heritage Gallery’s art director and owner. “Over the past two years Heritage has made successful exhibitions at the Basel Design fair that were dedicated to Soviet interior design. This is our first time in Miami, and we hope that American audiences will learn something new about interior design behind the Iron Curtain, and to see beyond the political confrontation of that period.’’

At Design Miami, Heritage presents a rare collection of original furniture and other interior design items. Each item is unique. Of particular interest are two items that comprise the exhibition’s central works.

First, there is an extremely rare radio, the CSA-K, which is now a symbol of the Soviet era when the predominantly agrarian country was rapidly developing technologically and industrially. The Karelian birch radio in the exhibition was ordered by the Kirov Theater of Opera and Ballet (now Mariinsky Theater) as a gift to Mikhail Kalinin, who was one of the most powerful members of the Politburo, the ruling body of the USSR.

The second important item is a 1940 transformer-chair made of poplar. The style borrows heavily from Russian classicism with the shape of a lyre supplemented by armrests with smoothly curved scrolls, and ornamentation in the form of a carved wreath resembling the Soviet emblem.

Finally, special attention is given to the work of the famous architect Nikolai Lanceray (1879-1942). In the Czarist period, he was a professor at the Imperial Academy of Arts, and a member of the famous “World of Art” movement. Throughout the 1930s, even when he was imprisoned in the gulag, Lanceray continued to design furniture. His items in this exhibition were made in 1937 for the sumptuous Marble Palace in Leningrad (St. Petersburg), which at that time housed the Lenin Museum.


Self-portrait depicts N. Lanceray in Cheka custody. Source: Gulag Museum

History is history; we cannot change it. But we should also remember the good things that happened even when times were extremely difficult. Heritage Gallery’s exhibition honors the efforts of those brave men and women, such as Nikolai Lanceray, who continued to create beautiful things in the face of very dangerous and difficult circumstances.


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