Revolution: Russian Art 1917-1932, The Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, W1, until 17thApril 2017
As I was unable to attend I asked John Kirkwood to go on my behalf – here are his thoughts:
This exhibition to commemorate the centenary of the Russian Revolution focuses on a momentous period in Russian history between 1917, the year of the October revolution, and 1932 when Stalin began his violent suppression of the Avant-Garde.
Divided into sections all the way from Salute The Leader, through Brave New World to Stalin’s Utopia, there is even a section on Fate of the Peasants. Stalin came to power by promising to make the lives of the peasants better but once in power he ruined their lives by forming collective farms which destroyed the existing peasants’ way of life and livelihood. All sounds a bit too familiar.
The post 1917 paintings are strongly nationalistic and utterly unsentimental – there is no room for doubting your allegiance to the State – but politicised as they are they remain strong and arresting images. There are works by Chagall and Kandinsky and a room dedicated to over 30 paintings and architectons of Malevich seen together for the first time since 1932 in an exact reconstruction of the hang designed by the artist for the Leningrad exhibition that year.