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The chic interior – Stalinist style

— June 2013

Associated media

Couch of Stalinist period © Heritage Gallery

At Design Miami/Basel 2013, Heritage Gallery of Moscow unveils an exhibition dedicated to Soviet interior design. The gallery will make the first-ever exhibition of unique one-off interior items of the Soviet Empire Style spanning the the Stalinist period, the mid-1930s to the mid-1950s.

The Soviet Empire Style was marked by luxury and monumentality, combining elements of the Baroque, Napoleon Empire, neo-classical and Art Deco. This state-sanctioned style replaced the Avant-garde as the Soviet Union's main aesthetic concept. It symbolized a return to classical notions of beauty, and became the hallmark of a powerful rising Soviet empire.

In 1929 the Soviet government of Joseph Stalin launched a campaign to rapidly industrialize his predominantly agrarian country. Much is already known about the ghastly human cost of Stalin's totalitarian ambitions, as well as his repressive state cultural policies. Nevertheless, we should not forget that many important artists continued to create beautiful and exquisite objects despite the restrictions on artistic freedom. Heritage Gallery's exhibition honours the efforts of those brave men and women who continued to create in very difficult circumstances, and who constantly faced the possibility of jail or execution for any real or perceived transgression.

During Stalin's rule, interior design and architecture were created in a single unified style dictated by the Kremlin. Components that are frequently used in the lining of a building's external walls were now seen inside. These included composite-order columns, and ornate mouldings. Marble, expensive wood, bronze, and representational paintings were widely used in the interiors.

This luxurious and grand aesthetic ended in the second half of the 1950s. The new Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, was a man of very simple tastes and he criticized the Soviet Empire Style for ‘excessive embellishment’.

With such political oblivion and the changes in tastes over the past 60 years, many interior items from the Stalinist period were thrown away and lost. Few items have been preserved, which makes this exhibition even more special.

At Design Miami/Basel, Heritage Gallery will present unique decorative objects, lamps, and exquisite furniture. Most were single-copy items, made at great cost for the private apartments of the political elite, as well as for public spaces such as the Hotel Moskva, and the Red Army Theatre in Moscow.

Among the most outstanding items are the huge faience panel, Exemption of the Schlisselburg Prisoners, (1934), made by sculptor Isidore Frikh-Har (1894–1978). There will also be elegant theatre furniture made by the important Soviet architect, Karo Alabyan; items from apartments of the political elite produced in either a single-copy or limited edition; as well as porcelain painted by the leading avant-garde artists of the period, A. Schekatikhina-Pototskaya, and V. Chekhonin.

General show hours:
 11–16 June 2013, 11a.m.–7p.m. Location:
 Hall 1.1, Süd, Messe Basel
, Switzerland

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