In early December 2021 Moscow Design Museum opens it’s first large-scale exhibition exploring Russian design over the past century at the New Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. Many design works are displayed for the first time. The exposition showcases more than 500 exhibits in total. Moreover, there will be organized three re-expositions throughout the year.

©Moscow Design Museum

Divided into four sections – Avant-garde, Art Deco and Stalin’s Empire Style, Post-war design, and Contemporary design – the exhibition features both objects that illustrate innovative ideas of Russian designers and products that were mass-produced. These are mock-ups, sketches, blueprints, reconstructions of famous unrealized projects, and design concepts from the collections of the Moscow Design Museum, the Polytechnic Museum, the Museum of Art Textiles and Costume, The Central Scientific Research Automobile and Automotive Engines Institute “NAMI”, and private collectors.

©Moscow Design Museum

“The exhibition is the result of ten years of research work; the history of Russian design has never been shown so comprehensively. Typically, innovative experiments are exhibited outside the context of mass production. This exhibition defines the paradigm of Russian design, tells real stories of how and why industrial products were designed in one way or another, launched into production or remained at the project stage. We discovered designs that had never been exhibited in museums before. All these unique exhibits engage in dialogue (literally, stand in pairs) with objects that were churned out by factories,” says the exhibition curator and director of the Moscow Design Museum, Alexandra Sankova.

©Moscow Design Museum

The curators Alexandra Sankova and Olga Druzhinina draw parallels between promising projects by Soviet and Russian designers and mass-produced goods. For example, in the first part of the exhibition dedicated to avant-garde, a minimalist kitchen designed for the house of Narkomfin, one of the most famous monuments of constructivism, is contrasted with simple wooden stools. The replica of the kitchen was created specifically for the exhibition and is shown for the first time. Among the experimental works of the 1930s, there are original interiors, furniture and lighting designed for the editorial office of the Pravda newspaper. These projects made by Workshop No. 12 of the Moscow City Council are displayed next to typical cabinet furniture of that era.

©Moscow Design Museum

“The title of the exhibition contains the word “essentials”. We selected exhibits that vividly illustrate the most significant stages in the development of Russian design. These are examples of “good design”, and there were quite a few among mass-produced products. We realize that it is impossible to tell about all the spheres and directions of Russian design for more than a hundred years within the framework of one exposition. Therefore, we show only a small but essential part of its history and leave room for continuing this conversation by regularly changing exhibits,” says Olga Druzhinina, curator of the exhibition.

©Moscow Design Museum

The exhibition was organized using a grant from the President of the Russian Federation provided by the Presidential Foundation for Cultural Initiatives.