Some exhibitions cost a lot. In theory, Building The Revolution: Soviet Art and Architecture 1915-1935 cost me a tenner. In practice, it cost a lot more as I walked away with three heavy hardcover books...
For me, there are two major things I learnt at this exhibition:
- Constructivist architecture is absolutely my kind of thing
- Some fellow named Richard Pare has already taken every photograph I ever wanted to take, and taken them brilliantly
This exhibition is a mixture of photographs and other mediums, mostly pencil drawings with a couple of paintings. The drawings are there to show the Constructivist influences on the architecture, and I must be honest none of them particularly moved me. Being shown the foundations of art is like being shown the foundations of a building - not as interesting as the whole thing!
However, the back story to the non-photographic art was interesting - much of it had been saved by George Costakis, who was allowed to own the art as he was a foreigner and not subject to the state suppression of "unsuitable art". I certainly admire Mr. Costakis' actions, as without him a lot of early Soviet art would have disappeared forever.
Of course, the photographs were my real interest - interesting buildings, many approaching 90 years old or more, and which are therefore showing signs of dilapidation. Anyone who's been with me when taking photos knows that's my kind of thing.
To get a taste of the exhibition, check out the wikipedia page on Constructivist architecture, and look at those buildings!
The brief flurry of constructivism in the Soviet Union led to some truly astonishing buildings, but it ended when Stalin came into power - he preferred a more neo-classical style. Another reason to dislike Stalin, as if anyone needed one more...
The exhibition is well laid out, divided into different types of architecture - state and communications, industrial, education/recreation/health, and finally Lenin's Mausoleom. This works well, preventing the scale of the state offices and industrial buildings from jarring with some of the more compact yet brilliant designs for social clubs. The overall layout and pacing of the exhibition was superb, and the decision to culminate with Lenin's Mausoleum - in an area painted solid Red - was a suitable high point to end on.
I also took the audio guide, which was an excellent companion and well worth the extra £3.50, being filled with facts and snippets of interviews with curators of contributing collections and with Richard Pare himself.
A highly recommended exhibition, even if it did show me that my photographs are effectively derivative of a fellow I'd never even heard of until today!
Overall, I'd score this one as 5 out of 5 - highly recommended.