SOVIET ART SOVIET SPORT – A PIONEERING EXHIBITION OF SOVIET ART FROM THE COLLECTION OF THE INSTITUTE OF RUSSIAN REALIST ART, MOSCOW
Sotheby’s, 34-35 New Bond Street, London, 19th – 21st December 2013, 2nd – 14th January 2014
This striking exhibition is presented by Sotheby’s, The Institute of Russian Realist Art and PromSvyazBank and consists of thirty five paintings, drawings and sculptures from the Institute’s collections.
Sport was one of the great symbols of post- Revolutionary Russian ideology and a perfect subject for Socialist Realist Art. The dedication, strength, teamsmanship, and quest for glory found in those participating in sport perfectly reflected the State’s views. This was emphasised by the fact that over many decades the Soviet people woke up daily to appropriate music and instructions on gymnastic exercises. If this were not enough when you got to work or school there were more gymnastics to be done before you started work. Those aged between ten and sixty were required to participate in sporting activities and were subject to annual examinations on them.
In some ways it seems strange that the Soviet Government, like the Tsars before them, expected their chosen artists to paint in the manner and style that they wished rather than in the artist’s own individual style. Indeed, it was a dangerous path to veer away from the figurative art glorifying Soviet philosophy of life and could result in an artist being arrested and exiled for what was considered counter-revolutionary activity, as for example actually happened to the artist Mikhail Sokolov.
Paradoxically in sporting art a little leeway was allowed and one comes across elements of Impressionism and avant-garde in some works. Indeed, it made sport a popular subject for some artists. One leading Soviet era artist Alexander Deyneka summed it up saying “Sport has one wonderful feature: it can safely fit into a very wide variety of artistic frameworks. This subject is inexhaustible because it is democratic and popular. Sport accommodates within itself shades of feeling – it is lyrical, it is positive and full of optimism. It draws on heroic origins.”
This show provides a rare chance to see Soviet Art in the UK and provides a fascinating glimpse into the Soviet era and way of life.