Building the Revolution

Last night we went to the preview of the Building the Revolution: Soviet Art and Architecture 1915-1935 exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts. Hubby got free tickets from work, so we went along.

Now I’m not a very cultured person. I don’t really enjoy classical music or much art or black and white films or know much about history. And, as hubby points out, I’m from ‘the north’ (actually the Midlands which he considers to be the north). I do, however, like ballet and hubby took me to see Swan Lake in February which was lovely, but he only enjoyed the music.  So from time to time hubby tries to encourage me to be cultured. Last night was one example of this.

It was quite interesting. Like I said, I’m pretty ignorant about much of history (maybe because I stopped studying history aged 14?) so I was learning as we went round. The exhibition is made up of sketches, paintings, some small models, photographs and videos of the buildings built in 1915-1935.  There were some pretty impressive photos by Richard Pare taken in the 1990s of the buildings as they are today.

There were a variety of buildings represented in the exhibition, from the famous Shabolovka Radio Tower to accommodation for students. They built a lot of buildings in a short amount of time, and each is unique. The signs next to the artworks almost worked as Socialist propaganda in themselves. For example, they boasted of wide corridors in accommodation blocks for people to socialise, the opportunity for workers to have set leisure time where they would be encouraged to socialise and exercise. It read like an ideal place to live. Obviously it didn’t quite work out like that…

I knew that after Lenin died there was a tomb-type building built for his body in Moscow, but I don’t think I’d ever seen pictures of it. And am I right in thinking you can see his actual embalmed body?  Anyway, there were photographs of the Mausoleum and it is very shiny – you can see the reflection of trees behind the photographer on the surface of the building. They obviously look after it well.

If this sounds like your cup of tea, the exhibition opens to the public on Saturday and is open until 22 January. I’m sure you’d be able to give much better criticism than I have given! Here’s the official blurb:

‘This exhibition will examine Russian avant-garde architecture made during a brief but intense period of design and construction that took place from c.1922 to 1935. Fired by the Constructivist art that emerged in Russia from c.1925, architects transformed this radical artistic language into three dimensions, creating structures whose innovative style embodied the energy and optimism of the new Soviet Socialist state.’


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