Art and revolution

Issue section: 

Roger Huddle is right to be disappointed by the Royal Academy’s Revolution exhibition (March SR). Thankfully, unlike the stolid display on show there, the Imagine Moscow show at the Design Museum makes an effort to bring to life the artistic dynamism that the events of 1917 propelled.

None of the six architectural projects exhibited were ever built, but the fantastic ideas behind them live on in cities across the world, though sadly more often than not without their original political aims.

What is clear is that architects and artists in Russia in the years following 1917 looked first and foremost to changing the world. El Lissitzky’s Cloud Iron was aimed at linking living space, commercial activities and transport in giant hubs across Moscow. The Lenin Institute was designed to promote education, taking up one of the Bolsheviks’ central aims of fighting illiteracy. The Health Factory looked to improving not only physical health but lifestyles as well. The Communal House was designed to liberate women.

The exhibition is full of models, propaganda posters, plans, fabulous textile and porcelain designs, all displaying the urge to take the revolution forward. It also shows clearly where things went wrong, particularly in the rise of the Cult of Lenin, displayed most grotesquely in the Palace of the Soviets exhibit, and in the seventh display — one that was tragically built — the Lenin Mausoleum.

This sadly ends the exhibition, but don’t let this put you off visiting an impressive show.