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Building the Revolution - Royal Academy of Arts

Rusakov Workers' Club: general view showing the three auditorium segments. Richard Pare, 1995. 50.8 x 61 cm. Richard Pare, courtesy Kicken Berlin. Copyright Richard Pare.

Exhibition preview

AN EXHIBITION entitled Building the Revolution: Art and Architecture in Russia 1915-1935 will be on display in the Sackler Wing at the Royal Academy of Arts from October 29, 2011 to January 22, 2012.

The 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.1915, 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.

The exhibition will juxtapose large-scale photographs of extant buildings with relevant Constructivist drawings and paintings, vintage photographs and periodicals. Many of the works have never been shown in the UK before.

The drive to forge a new Socialist society in Russia encouraged synthesis between radical art and architecture.

This creative reciprocity was reflected in the engagement with architectural ideas and projects of such artists as Kazimir Malevich, Vladimir Tatlin, Liubov Popova, El Lizzitsky, Ivan Kluin and Gustav Klucis, and in designs by such architects as Konstantin Melnikov, Moisei Ginsburg, Ilia Golosov and the Vesnin brothers, as well as Le Corbusier and Erich Mendelsohn, European architects who were draughted in to help shape the new utopia.

Their novel buildings – streamlined, flat-roofed, white-walled and with experimental fenestration – appeared alien among the surrounding traditional low-built wooden structures and densely developed nineteenth century commercial and residential blocks.

They left a distinctive mark not only on the two most prominent cities in what was then the USSR, Moscow and St. Petersburg, but also on other urban centres such as Kiev, Ekaterinburg, Baku, Sochi and Nishni Novogorod.

As part of a campaign to preserve these iconic buildings, many of which have either fallen into disrepair, undergone inappropriate transformations or been threatened with demolition, the renowned photographer Richard Pare has documented them in a series of sympathetic and timely images made over the past two decades.

The historical, political, social and cultural context in which these modernist structures were created will be communicated through vintage archival photographs from the Schusev State Museum of Architecture, Moscow (MUAR), showing the buildings under construction or soon after completion.

These photographs, which have never been exhibited before either in or outside Russia, will be complemented with paintings and works on paper from the George Costakis Collection of Constructivist Art, currently housed at the State Museum of Contempory Art, Thessaloniki.

The inclusion of these pieces will demonstrate the vital experimentation of Russian avant-garde artists from c.1915 to 1935, as well as the intense dialogue that developed between them and radical architects, contributing to a new, revolutionary language of architecture.

Although Russian modernist architecture has long been recognised as a distinctive and significant moment in the history of architecture, it has been rarely published in recent years and hence remains little known.

Since the 1990s, important and pertinent material relating to the movement has surfaced in Russia and it has become easier to acces the buildings themselves. Together these factors have encouraged new research into and a greater understanding of this unique period.

The exhibition will be arranged thematically, with sections focusing on residential buildings, factories, health facilities, communications and transport. Each section in turn will explore advancements and nuances within the different building types. The architecture will be brought to life with a mixture of contemporary and vintage photographs.

In conjunction with the exhibition, a reconstruction of Vladimir Tatlin’s Monument to the Third International, known as ‘Tatlin’s Tower’, specially commissioned from Jeremy Dixon Architects will be installed in the Royal Academy’s Annenberg Courtyard.

A fully illustrated catalogue has been published to accompany the exhibition that is currently on tour in Spain. It has essays by architectural and art historians specialising in the period, including Professor Jean-Louis Cohen, Dr Christina Lodder and Dr Maria Tsantsanoglou.

Building the Revolution Gallery

Tickets: £9 full price; £7 registered disabled and 60+ years; £5 NUS/ISIC cardholders; £3 12-18 years and Income Support; £3 8-11 years; 7 and under free. RA Friends go free.

Times: Daily from 10am to 6pm (last admission 5.30pm); Fridays until 10pm (last admission 9.30pm).

Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, W1J 0BD

Tel: 020 7300 8000

Eyewitness: Hungarian Photography in the 20th Century continues at the Royal Academy of Arts until October 2, 2011.