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Soviet Avant-garde at MoMA: Lost Vanguard: Soviet Modernist Architecture, 1922-32 Explores A Missing Chapter Of Modern Architectural History

MoMA Exhibition Features Richard Pare’s Contemporary Photographs of Architecture in the Former Soviet Union, Plus Soviet Architectural Journals from the 1920s and 1930s Lost Vanguard: Soviet Modernist Architecture, 1922-32

July 18–October 29, 2007

Lost Vanguard: Soviet Modernist Architecture, 1922-32 is an exhibition of contemporary photography that captures striking avant-garde structures built in the former Soviet Union during the 1920s and early 1930s, many of which are now severely dilapidated, and others of which are threatened with demolition. The exhibition highlights some 75 photographs by architectural photographer Richard Pare, who worked from 1993 to the present, making eight extensive trips to the region and creating nearly 10,000 images to compile a timely documentation of these neglected modernist structures. Locations vary from Moscow and St. Petersburg to Kiev, Baku, Ivanovo, and Sochi, and buildings range from factories and administrative buildings to communal dwellings and workers’ clubs.

These pictures document a unique chapter in the history of Soviet architecture that began in the early 1920s, when the newly formed Soviet Union saw an unprecedented burst of artistic and architectural creativity and productivity, and which lasted until the mid-1930s, when Stalin's regime prohibited modern architecture in favor of monumental neo-classical buildings intended to express the power of the state.

Lost Vanguard is organized by Barry Bergdoll, The Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design, The Museum of Modern Art, with guest curator Jean-Louis Cohen, Sheldon H. Solow Professor in the History of Architecture, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. The exhibition will be on view in The Philip Johnson Architecture and Design Galleries on the third floor from July 18 to October 29, 2007.

Apart from a few iconic examples long famous in textbooks, the full extent of the architecture of this time was largely unknown until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. The range of these images reveals that far from a period of paper experimentation, the Soviet avant-garde created a large legacy of actual building. Nor was this limited to Moscow; architecture spread the culture of revolution to all parts of the Soviet Union. Lost Vanguard also includes a selection of Russian architecture journals on loan from private collections—notably that of Stephen Garmey—which provide historical context and show pictures of iconic Russian modernist structures as they appeared when new.

Explains Mr. Bergdoll, “Pare’s photographs capture a lost heroic, political, and architectural experiment. Many images depict daring architectural innovations in dynamic interiors with bold ramps, dramatic cantilevers, and double-glazing systems, which are startlingly advanced for their time. The forms also speak of aspirations for a new collectivized society, with institutions giving rise to unprecedented designs, particularly in projects for workers’ clubs and collective housing.”

From structures made by international architects such as Le Corbusier’s Centrosoyuz (1929–36) in Moscow and Erich Mendelsohn’s Red Banner Textile Factory (1925–27) in St. Petersburg, to the Narkomfin Communal House by Moisei Ginzburg and Ignati Milinis (1930) and architect Konstantin Melnikov’s own house (1927–31) in Moscow, the buildings illustrated in this exhibition demonstrate the legacy of this forgotten Soviet modernist architecture.

Mr. Cohen adds, “The photographic expeditions that Richard Pare led make it possible to measure the effect of time on places whose creators intended to break with the past. The rusted steel, the scarified concrete, and the cracking paint captured by the lens of Richard Pare remain that way, beyond any melancholy, as if animated by this past life in its hopes as in its illusions.”


The exhibition is made possible by the Russian Avantgarde Fund. Additional funding is provided by the Foundation for the Advancement of Architectural Thought.

In conjunction with the exhibition Lost Vanguard: Soviet Modernist Architecture, 1922-32, there will be a symposium organized by MoMA with the World Monuments Fund and the Architectural League of New York on Friday, September 28, from 4:00 to 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, September 29, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Vanguard Lost and Found: The Peril and Preservation of Soviet Modernist Architecture
Friday, September 28, 4:00 to 7:30 p.m. at MoMA and The Architectural League of New York
Saturday, September 29, 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at MoMA, Celeste Bartos Theater

Following the seminal "Heritage at Risk" conference in Moscow in April 2006, this symposium addresses the pressing issues of preserving the modernist legacy of the most significant edifices built by radical Soviet architects in the 1920s and 1930s. There will be keynote addresses by Jean-Louis Cohen and Natalia Dushkina, Professor, Moscow Architecture Institute. In addition, there will be several case study prsentations by noted architects and scholars including Alexei Ginzburg, architect, Moscow, and Anke Zalivako, Technische Universit"at, Berlin.A conclusive roundtable discussion by major Russian and Western scholars in the field of preservation, including David Sarkisyan, Director, Shchusev Museum of Architecture, Moscow, and Senator Sergey Gordeev, Founder, Russian Avantgarde Foundation, will explore the current situation and destiny of Soviet avant-garde architecture threatened by neglect as well as by speculative development.

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