Heritage is the prominent Moscow gallery which supports Russian and Soviet design all over the world. The gallery presented more than 80 exhibitions, including the international art fairs and the major museums. At the core of its strategy is the desire to uncover the overlooked aspects of the design history and to offer an unconventional approach towards understanding its development. The gallery also runs the publishing programme and is currently preparing the volume “Soviet Design. From Constructivism to Modernism, 1920-1980.
On the occasion of the participation of the gallery in BRAFA Art fair in Brussels where the gallery’s director Kristina Krasnyanskaya will also present the talk on Soviet Art Deco RA+C met with Kristina to find out more about how the gallery and her personal interest in the filed.
MM: Dear Kristina, could you tell a bit about your gallery. As I know when Heritage was founded in 2008 it specialised in art of the first wave Russian diaspora, but gradually expanded to include art of the 20th century and works of design. Could you comment on the development of the strategy? Does it also reflect the development of your taste as a collector?
KK: Heritage gallery started with a scope on Russian émigré artists of the first wave, namely those who left the country in the course of the Russian Revolution. It was my personal choice influenced by the fact that these artists were part of the global art market, which made their works an attractive investment.
Later I became interested in collectable design which was completely undiscovered field for our collectors. Developing this niche was both fascinating and challenging. In collaboration with Yves Gastou Gallery and Didier AaronGallery I brought to Russia the first and the biggest exhibition of collectable design. The show included a wide range of exhibits from the best pieces of Antique French and Italian furniture of XVI-XVIII centuries, some of which were represented at Hermitage, to the finest works of XX century designers, such as Arbus, Adnet, Poillerat, Jaime Hayon, Ettore Sottsass. As this segment was completely new for the collectors, we also ran the programme of master-classes, lectures and overviews of the market to demonstrate that design was worth collecting and investing.
I also realised that Soviet Design is very attractive for the international audience, so I started exhibiting internationally, for example, at Design Miami/Basel. Our first show was dedicated to the Thaw period and analysed trends and connections between Constructivist ideas of the 1920s and Soviet Modernism (Functionalism) of the 1960s. Our show was reviewed favourably by the international press which inspired us for future work in this direction. I am so thankful to Craig Robbins, the founder and CEO of Design Miami/Basel, for his openness to new ideas and the opportunity to show Soviet Design at this prestigious fair.
Following our successful debut, I continued creating shows, both commercial and museum displays, abroad and in Russia, where there are a lot of collectors and interest in the Soviet heritage is constantly growing. My curatorial practice is based on my desire to give these beautiful items a new birth and new representation without loosing their important historical aspects. In the displays I aim to construct a story of certain periods by bringing together furniture, decorative art, glass, porcelain, graphic works, architectural designs and paintings. In 2015, for example, we organised a great show in the Shchusev State Museum of Architecture titled From Constructivism to Modernism, which represented 5 periods of the Soviet Design history. Last year we did the exhibition dedicated to the anniversary of the 1917 Revolution, where avant-garde art was shown next to propaganda design highlighting the fact that both types of art were created by the same artists. And this year we did the fascinating show dedicated to Soviet Art Deco, the field of the design history, which is yet to be defined and the peculiarities of which attract a lot of heated discussions and specialist interest.
My own collection has also grown. I started with the paintings and graphic works by Russian émigré artists, but now I have assembled a rare collection of Soviet design, which includes constructivist and propaganda furniture, rare Soviet glass and porcelain objects, architectural designs and bronze sculptures.
MM: Do you think design is becoming more recognised as an art form among Russian audience and has started to attract more attention in the last few years? Do you think that design has also become more attractive for collectors?
KK: We made a great effort to introduce Russian collectors to this field. I tried to familiarise my friends and clients with different aspects of design by inviting them to visit the major design fairs and museum around the world and developing the exhibition and educational programmes in the gallery. And this is what my job consists of – helping the potential collectors to develop knowledge, taste and personal preferences by bringing to them the finest works. It was a challenging task 6 years ago, but there is more and more interest among the Russian collectors now. A very indicative case is that for the latest edition of Cosmoscow, the Moscow contemporary art fair, organiser for the first time decided to include the Design section, which I was invited to curate. And I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the positive feedback which we received from the viewers and clients. Next year we aim to develop this section to include the international design galleries.
MM: Is Soviet and Russian design popular among foreign audience? Which periods on Russian history attract the most attention?
KK: So far our collectors are mostly Russians. But having said that I also want to point out the great attention and interest we received from the international institutions and museums. Outside of Russia people are usually aware of avant-garde and Constructivism, which makes us especially keen on highlighting and bringing to attention other periods of Soviet design.
MM: During the upcoming BRAFA you will give a talk on the Soviet Art Deco which, as you mentioned, was also the focus of your recent exhibition. This period of the design history is very fascinating as it still remains understudied. How did you become interested in this topic and come up with such an idea?
KK: My goal is to discover and highlight unknown fields of design. Soviet Art Deco was a very short period influenced mostly by American «stream line». The ways how it can be defined are still to be determined. Can we regard it as late Constructivism with some integrated decorative elements or is it a unique style with its own characteristics? This area is undoubtedly is understudied and offers a lot of opportunities for curators. While there is still no consensus among art historian on the subject our exhibition present an opportunity to study how this style appeared, under what influences it developed and what kind of design objects could be attributed to it.
MM: Could you introduce our readers to 1 or 2 examples of the works of design of that period which you value the most?
KK: First of all, its a rare sample of Art Deco furniture, that was created specially for kids labour camp, and of course beautiful stations of the underground created by Soviet architects.
MM: Heritage is definitely the top destination for all the admirers of Russian and Soviet design. Could you recommend other museums or collections in Russia or abroad which our readers interested in works of design should visit?
I would definitely recommend to visit the outstanding Shchusev State Museum of Architecture and the Museum of Decorative Art in Moscow. For avant-garde design I would invite all art and design lovers to visit The State Museum of Contemporary art in Thesalonniki which holds the famous Costakis collection.
Kristina Krasnyanskaya’s talk on Soviet Art Deco will be held at BRAFA Art Fair on 28 January. For more information follow the link.
Favourable admission for readers of RA+C:
Please contact Patricia Simonart firstname.lastname@example.org before January 25th to book your free ticket to the lecture and access to the BRAFA Art Fair. You will be able to pick up your ticket on the day of the lecture not later than 4h45pm at the VIP-desk at the Fair entrance. You will be asked to give your name – please mention that you are from Russian Art and Culture.