Visions of utopia: Soviet posters of the 1920s and 1930s

Unique collection of Soviet propaganda posters is now on display at Pushkin House

November 18, 2013 · 3 min read

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For the first time in over eighty years, part of a unique archive of Soviet propaganda posters is on display at Pushkin House. Featuring work by designers such as Daniil Cherkes, Yakov Guminer, Gustav Klutsis and Mikhail Taranov, Visions of Utopia presents heroic depictions of soldiers and workers, men and women, building the Soviet Socialist dream.

Team-curated by Jane Powell, Grant Pooke and Elena Zaytseva, the exhibition of twenty five works is a collaborative venture between the  Marx Memorial Library (which is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year), the University of Kent’s School of Arts and Pushkin House.

This exhibition presents Soviet posters of the first two decades following the October Revolution – an era driven by the utopian impulse that a new society and a new world could be created from the ruins of Tsarist Russia. Yet as post-revolutionary Russian society rapidly transformed so to did the character of utopia and the posters in the exhibition explicitly show the transition to dystopia in this period.

The posters displayed form a fractional part of a far larger collection of Soviet, Comintern and Cold War posters which belong to the Marx Library in Clerkenwell. Many were spirited out of the Soviet Union in the 1930s and 1940s by political delegations, visitors and couriers who travelled between the Library and the Soviet Union on fact finding missions or Communist Party business. Until they were re-discovered in a London warehouse by a former Director of Archives at the Marx Library and catalogued as part of a recent Leverhulme-funded project organised in collaboration with the University of Kent, the unique collection had been all but forgotten.

Visions of Utopia is hosted by Pushkin House (5a Bloomsbury Square, London WC1A 2TA) and is open to the public until December 5th. The exhibition will also feature a number of lectures and a closing panel discussion.

Tuesday, 19th November, 19.30 – Lecture by Natalia Murrey: The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 and the quest for the new art. The Proletarian Art Enigma.

Wednesday, 27th November, 19.30 – Lecture by professor Christina Lodder: The Communist Vision of Gustavs Klucis.

Wednesday, 4th December, 19.30 – Panel discussion with John Callow (chair), Jane Powell, Grant Pooke, Tatiana Baskakova, Elena Zaytseva: Two Decades of October Revolution: from Utopian Dreams to Utopian Visions.

For more information visit the Pushkin House website.

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