Issue 230 of SOCIALIST REVIEW Published May 1999 Copyright © Socialist Review
The Russian Revolution of 1917 produced a group of artists who were able to push artistic development to the limit. In 1919 a new Museum of Artistic Culture was established in Petrograd. It managed to collect over 500 paintings, drawings, prints and sculptures in less than seven years. The concept of a new museum was inspired by the leading lights of the Russian avant-garde and this exhibition highlights the many dramatic innovations made by artists such as Malevich, Tatlin, Kandinsky and Rodchenko at the time.
This is the first time that this collection of works has been shown outside Russia. The innovators of the museum were quite clear about rejecting the old and taking control into the hands of the artists rather than museum curators. As Malevich explained, 'Before us lies the task of levelling out the tomb of the hideous attitude of the old to new, of smashing the images of authority completely... of scattering all the oldtimers, so that they do not prevent the "audacity" of putting our new image on a pedestal.'
New Art for a New Era is at the Barbican Art Gallery from 30 April to 27 June