Work and Play Behind the Iron Curtain brings together over fifty key objects featuring the quirky, colourful and often charming design style that emerged from the 1950s in the Soviet Union. The preceding period, bound by more severe, functional principles, is examined through models and photographs from the famous ZIL factory, which produced both armoured trucks and domestic appliances. Part of GRAD’s on-going exploration of Russian design history, this show tackles a relatively unknown yet prolific period.
GRAD’s exhibition examines daily life in the new builds through the resulting boom in Soviet design, which saw the development of many beloved staple items of the Eastern Bloc: from the Chaika vacuum cleaner and the Vyatka scooter to Alenka chocolate and Nevalyashka roly-poly dolls. Bringing together domestic appliances, food and cosmetics packaging, electronic devices, toys and sporting equipment, the display reveals a lesser known side of Soviet society: consumerism and popular culture. Underground culture is hinted at through bootleg copies of vinyl records featuring banned Russian and Western music. Ingeniously made using illegally obtained medical X-ray sheets, they featured fragmented images of human skeletons and were circulated secretly up to the mid 1960s.
This exhibition provides a rare opportunity to examine every day life, work and play in the Soviet Union, through the prism of its quirky, yet iconic designs, be they quotidian items such as the avoska string shopping bag or the model of luxurious limousine made especially for Stalin.
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