Gallery for Russian Arts and Design (GRAD) is a contemporary art space in London dedicated to creating a setting for graphic arts and works in other media from Russia and the former Soviet Union. For the first time in London, the gallery exhibits Russian Soviet era posters from the 1920s and 1930s. Entitled SEE USSR the presentation explores the backstory of these striking posters that were produced to educate the masses. The exhibition runs until 31 August and examines the political and stylistic differences between Soviet internal and propaganda of 1930s through early Intourist (the government department responsible for foreign tourism) posters,ephemera and agittextiles.
The collected posters were designed specifically to be seen outside the USSR to attract Western visitors and their hard currency: funds were desperately needed for industrialisation. Consequently they show a very different image of the USSR than the public are usually familiar with, instead these posters reflect a country of leisure, comfort and luxury, all designed to promote the communist country as a tourist haven. Produced by the agency, the posters provide an interesting counterpoint to the widespread perception that Stalin’s Soviet Union was a country almost completely closed to foreigners.
One of the poster artists included is Nikolay Zhukov – a renowned painter, portraitist and illustrator whose work was in huge demand from party officials. He went on to illustrate the full edition of Lenin’s works and was awarded two USSR state prizes. The unusual title of the exhibition references a slogan from a number of these posters which are on show with magazines, contemporary textiles and ephemera from the tourism initiative. Also on display are designs for the most common type of internal propaganda which had it’s own visual language and is strikingly different to the Intourist material, which was desinged in an Art Deco style to attract foreigners.
SEE USSR until 31 August, GRAD: Gallery for Russian Arts and Design, 3-4a Little Portland Street, London W1W 7JB.
1. Both posters featured in SEE USSR and are courtesy of the GRAD Gallery in collaboration with Antikbar.co.uk