Autumn Art Lectures 2017: The art of revolutions
In 1917 the Russian Revolution seized private collections, shut galleries, and prevented artists from meeting wealthy patrons. But in the dictatorship of the proletariat workers would own nothing individually – but everything collectively. The radical avant-garde rapidly recognised in the Bolshevik State their only source of funding. The profusion of public decorations that this produced was spectacular, in posters, parades, theatre, dance, film, sport and exhibitions, all collective in production, political in purpose, and all public.
John Milner curated the major exhibition Revolution: Russian Art 1917-32 at the Royal Academy 2017. He is Honorary Professor in Russian art at the Courtauld Institute, and co-founder of the Cambridge Courtauld Russian Art Centre. Books include Rodchenko Design 2009, Lissitzky Design 2009, Slap in the Face! Futurists in Russia 2007, Malevich and the Art of Geometry 1996, and Vladimir Tatlin and the Russian Avant-Garde 1984. Exhibitions include Lissitzky 2009 and Jack of Diamonds 2014.
The concepts of ‘art’ and ‘revolution’ intersect in many and various ways. This year’s Autumn Art Lecture Series explores some of them. It does this in the year of the anniversary of one of the world’s most profound revolutions, that of Russia in 1917 – our lecture on this, given by John Milner the curator of the Royal Academy exhibition (2017), takes place on its exact anniversary, according to the Gregorian calendar 7 November (25 October Julian). Other lectures address art and the Chinese cultural revolution (Robert Bickers), the visual culture of the French revolution (Valerie Mainz), and more diverse revolutionary topics such as the representational revolution of the first exhibition dedicated to queer British art (at Tate Britain 5 April – October 1st 2017), given by its curator Clare Barlow; the revolution in the presentation of art on television represented by Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation in 1969, given by the presenter of the new series Civilisations David Olusoga. We start with the American artist Molly Crabapple talking about the role of contemporary art as weapon of protest and revolution.