See David King’s rare collection of Russian and Soviet material in London for the first time

See David King's rare collection of Russian and Soviet material in London for the first time
Soviet School, The Nightmare of Future Wars — Workers of the World Unite (1920s). Image: The David King Collection at Tate

8 November 2017

An exhibition exploring the visual history of Russia and the Soviet Union opened at London’s Tate Modern today, spanning 50 years of art, photography and graphic design from the overthrow of the last Tsar through to the Thaw.

Looking at the propaganda material produced by the Bolsheviks during the revolutionary uprisings of 1917, the collective efforts of avant-garde artists who galvanised to support the new government, and the image the USSR projected to the rest of the world, Red Star Over Russia: A Revolution in Visual Culture 1905-55 asks: how was life and art transformed during seismic political events such as the October Revolution of 1917, the struggles of the Civil war and Stalin’s campaign of terror?

The show draws on the rare collection of posters, photographs and other ephemera belonging to the late graphic designer David King. King, who first travelled to Russia in 1970, is responsible for collecting over 250,000 artefacts dating from the late 19th Century to the Krushchev era.

46 artists feature in the exhibition, including renowned avant-garde figures such as El Lissitzky and Alexander Rodchenko, as well as lesser known and anonymous photographers, artists and designers. This is a rare opportunity to see Aleksandr Deineka’s spectacular murals, Stakhanovites, intended for the USSR pavilion at the 1937 World Fair in Paris, which are on show in the UK for the first time, as well as the work of remarkable female Soviet artists such as Valentina Kulagina, Varvara Stepanova, Nina Vatolina and many more.

As Natalya Sidlina, one of the curators of Red Star Over Russia, told The Calvert Journal: “It’s a history, not the history. This exhibition in particular is looking at historical events and the development of visual culture through the eyes of David King, British photographer, artist, designer, researcher, publisher, enthusiast. David’s exhibitions have had incredible success in Russia. His exhibition The Commissar Vanishes about the doctrine of the images during the Stalin period toured Russia for many years.” Sidlina, who is Adjunct Research Curator of Russian Art, co-curated the show together with Head of Displays, Matthew Gale, and Assistant Curator Dina Akhmadeeva.

Red Star Over Russia follows other major London exhibitions marking the centenary of the Russian Revolution through art, architecture and design. Currently on show at Calvert 22 Space is the first posthumous solo exhibition of Dmitry Prigov, a Russian conceptualist artist who came to define unofficial art in the final decades of the Soviet Union. Other shows in London include Revolution: Russian Art 1917-1932 at the Royal Academy of Arts’, Imagine Moscow at the Design Museum, and the first ever retrospectives of Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, also on show at Tate Modern.

Red Star Over Russia: A Revolution in Visual Culture 1905-55 will be on display until 18 February 2018 at Tate Modern. The show is open daily from 10.00 – 18.00 and until 22.00 on Fridays and Saturdays. You can find more information and to buy tickets here.

Don't forget to check out our special project: Revisiting Revolution: exploring the cultural history and legacy of the Russian Revolution and the year that shook the world