Heritage Gallery of Moscow is proud to present the first-ever international exhibition dedicated to original and rare items of Soviet interior design of the 1920s and early 1930s, as well as the period of the late 1950s to 1970s. The exhibition will be on display at the Design Miami Basel fair that takes place in Basel, Switzerland from June 11 to 17. Heritage Gallery is the first Russian gallery to participate at Design Basel.
The main theme of Heritage Gallery’s exhibition is the aesthetics of Khrushchev’s Thaw period, and how the ideas of Soviet designers of this period continued the trends established by the Russian Avant-garde of the 1920s.
In the late 1950s the Soviet Union witnessed the beginning of rapid large-scale residential construction, and this demanded a fundamental change in attitudes toward living space. It is primarily the aesthetics of the 1920s that were embraced by the young designers of the Thaw period. Even during the most terrible years of Stalinism, the elder generation of masters retained those traditions established in the 1920s. They soon offered a novel interpretation at this new stage of artistic development. This certainly creates the impression of parallels between Soviet architects from two eras separated by two decades – first the 1920s and early 1930s, and then the late 1950s up until the 1970s.
The current exhibition shows a very rare example of Russian Avant-garde furniture — an armchair designed by the architect Boris Iofan for the famous House on the Embankment that faces the Kremlin and which he built in the late 1920s for the new Soviet elite. This item is even more exciting because only a few pieces of such pre-World War II avant-garde furniture have survived. Iofan’s armchair is truly unique because less than a dozen pieces of furniture have survived that were made for the House on the Embankment.
In the 1950s and 1960s the Soviet furniture designer Yuri Sluchevsky made a valuable contribution in the search for a new model of furniture design. He was a professor at Moscow’s prominent Stroganov Academy, and he continued the traditions of the Russian Avant-garde. Sluchevsky worked out a special kind of modular system that calculated the optimal ratio of the furniture’s height vs. width as adjusted to the average human height.
The new small-sized Soviet apartments that were under construction reflected the demand and building aesthetics of that period, but they were not well suited for the bulky furniture produced during the previous decades. A major role in the propaganda of new trends in furniture art was played by the Permanent Construction Exhibition that started in Moscow in 1957. The exhibition was replenished on a regular basis, and images of the exhibits were printed in periodicals. Heritage’s current exhibition contains original items of such furniture once made for those Moscow exhibitions.
Anonymity is one of the defining features of Soviet art and design. The research and study of furniture in the current exhibition was actually undertaken for the first time ever. Some objects were attributed to certain artists with the help of rare catalogues and periodicals that covered exhibition activity and which very seldom mentioned the artists.
Heritage Gallery attributed the following pieces of furniture made in the late 1950s, and which are in the current exhibition — chair with a slatted back (Y. Kasradze); simple stool (T. Lichtheim); round table and armchairs (V. Koziulin, N. Manucharova and I. Savchenko); secretaire and chairs (O. Pshenichnikova).
The 1950s and 1960s were a time of rising interest in copyrighted works of decorative and applied art. Among the decorative vases made in a very characteristic style of the 1960s are works of art by Vladimir Gorodetsky (1924-1977), who is a key figure in Soviet porcelain art. Starting in 1947 he worked as an artist and then later as a chief artist of the Lomonosov Porcelain Factory (the former Imperial Porcelain Manufactory).
The art of sculptor Isidor Frich-Har (1894-1978) tightly connects Soviet art over the course of several decades. The current exhibition has one of his monumental works of the late 1930s — the fraternizing workers (both Soviet and international). This artwork is connected to the activity of the Seventh Congress of the Communist International (1935). The friendly kiss of the depicted workers is a symbol of unity and solidarity among the international proletariat.
Heritage Gallery was founded in 2006 by Christina Krasnyanskaya in order to research and display Russian art that had been forgotten due to the political situation in the country for most of the 20th century. The gallery regularly holds exhibitions, lectures and dinners. In 2011, Heritage launched a new department — Heritage Interior Art, which aims to research and exhibit Russian decorative and applied arts.