Striking red tower springs up outside Norwich’s Sainsbury Centre
PUBLISHED: 07:00 12 October 2017 | UPDATED: 17:53 12 October 2017
Russian art is taking centre stage at Norwich’s Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in two new and contrasting exhibitions opening this weekend.
A striking red tower has sprung up outside Norwich’s Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, an intriguing creation signposting the venue’s latest exhibitions.
This dramatic new addition to the University of East Anglia landscape is a model of Tatlin’s Tower, described as the most iconic architectural project of Russia’s Soviet era but ultimately never built. It is one of the highlights of the Sainsbury Centre’s The Russian Season which features two contrasting shows - Radical Russia and Royal Fabergé - and marks the centenary of the Russian Revolution.
In Radical Russia we see how, long before the 1917 Russian Revolution, avant-garde artists were already transforming art and culture in 20th-century Russia.
These artists - once considered outrageous and subversive - later played a role as the Soviet state’s officially approved culture, and the exhibition gives visitors a snapshot of their work from 1905 to 1930.
Professor Peter Waldron, Radical Russia’s curator, said: “In the first 30 years of the 20th Century, Russian art demonstrates amazing creative vitality and variety, and this is not just a product of the 1917 revolution. Russian artists, avant-garde, radical artists are plying their trade in the six or seven years before the political revolution. What we want to show is how radical art has developed before the Bolsheviks take power in 1917 but then how radical art is to embrace this new political and social revolution.”
Kazimir Malevich’s 1915 geometrical work called Red Square is Professor Waldron’s favourite work in the show.
“It is the epitome of avant-garde art and here is Malevich, in the middle of the First World War, before the Russian Revolution, producing this revolutionary icon,” he said.
Everyday items encouraging people to ‘live the revolution’ also feature in the exhibition.
Professor Waldron said: “The Bolsheviks wanted to bring revolutionary art into the homes and the everyday lives of people. They discover when they take power that the former Imperial Porcelain Factory contained thousands of unpainted, blank plates and they commissioned a group of radical artists to stamp their own designs on these pieces of ceramics, so the red star, the hammer and sickle, factory chimneys, red commissars, these all feature on these absolutely ordinary pieces of tableware.”
Architecture was also among the ways the message of the Soviet state was expressed, with Tatlin’s Tower originally intended to dominate cityscape of Petrograd (now St Petersburg).
“It is never built but here is one of the greatest examples of the aspirations that Soviet artists had for the new society in which they were living. Here they were using modern materials, using steel, using complicated geometric shapes, to show that this was a new world.”
In contrast to Radical Russia, the Royal Fabergé exhibition explores the glittering work of the famous Russian artist-jeweller Peter Carl Fabergé during the decades before the First World War, and also looks at Fabergé’s links to Sandringham and our own royal family.
Explaining the relationship between the two exhibitions, Professor Waldron said: “They work together in many ways. These are both about what became establishment art, so Fabergé is patronised by the Russian royal family and the British royal family, and radical art in the 1920s becomes the art patronised by the Soviet state. So here are two absolutely different styles of artistic expression within 10 years of each other, however they are both establishment art. At the same time we also see reflections in the ornamentation that Russian artists were able to use.”
It is thought between 1884 and 1917 Peter Carl Fabergé directed the production of some 200,000 elaborate pieces of jewellery, silverware and miniature objets d’art. Much was lost after the Bolshevik Revolution, but the Royal Fabergé exhibition - curated by Ian Collins with the Sainsbury Centre - will display some beautiful highlights. Exhibits include 60 linked to Sandringham, and loaned by the Royal Collection, illustrating the story of Fabergé’s association with our royal family which in 1907 saw Edward VII commission Fabergé to produce portrait sculptures of dogs and horses at Sandringham for Queen Alexandra. More on this connection will be revealed in a feature in the Weekend section in Saturday’s EDP.
The Russia Season - Royal Fabergé and Radical Russia is at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts from October 14 until February 11. Tickets £12 (£10.50 concessions). Visit www.scva.ac.uk or call 01603 593199.