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Soviet Art Soviet Sport

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Olga Vaulina: Wrestling, 1930s
Oil on canvas
Photo: Sotheby's.

Soviet Art Soviet Sport
LONDON  •  Sotheby's  •  Ongoing

The Institute of Russian Realist Art and PromSvyazBank present the exhibition Soviet Art Soviet Sport – one of only a very small number of exhibitions of Soviet Art ever to have been staged in the UK. Bringing together 35 important paintings, drawings and sculptures from the collection of the Institute of Russian Realist Art, the exhibition explores the representation of sport – one of the most powerful symbols of Soviet ideology - in 20th century Socialist Realist art. Following the 1917 Revolution, sport, with its associations with strength, unity and glory, emerged as a leading theme in Soviet art.

Alexander Deyneka, one of the leading artists of the Soviet era, explains the allure of sport as a subject for artists: "Sport has one wonderful feature: it can safely fit into a very wide variety of artistic frameworks. This subject is inexhaustible because it is democratic and popular. Sport accommodates within itself shades of feeling - it is lyrical, it is positive and full of optimism. It draws on heroic origins.”

Mass sporting events were an integral part of Soviet society in the 1920s-30s and parades to demonstrate the physical prowess of the Soviet people were carried out in the main stadiums and squares across the country. Artists were often involved in staging such events, and had an insider’s understanding of all the aesthetic subtleties and ideological demands. In Parade at the Dynamo Stadium, Luchishkin depicts a parade at the oldest surviving sports arena in Moscow, the Dynamo Stadium, with young Soviet women marching towards a bright and happy future.

Olga Vaulina’s artistic experiments sometimes contrasted strongly with the established aesthetic of the Soviet state, however she escaped any obvious repression. Her saving grace may have been a willingness to deliver ‘socially useful’ work – she travelled to Central Asia to paint and illustrated textbooks for the people of the North. In these two works from the 1930s, Wresting and In a Sports Hall, Vaulina pushes the artistic boundaries established by the Soviet state. In the first painting, Wrestlers she pays homage to the avant-garde experimental ‘Jack of Diamonds’ artistic community using bright colours, wide marks and colour planes. In the second canvas, In a Sports Hall, she blurs the traditional borderlines of strength and beauty to depict a powerful, strong woman next to a thin man – far removed from the characteristic images of the impressive Soviet sportsmen often produced in the 1930s.

Sotheby's Website

Detailed schedule information:
21st December 2013 and 2nd – 14th January 2014.

Contact: Tel: (44) 20 72 93 50 00

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