Views of Russia’s crumbling modernist heritage
Date: 24 Feb 2007 | | Views: 4075
Schukhov’s Moscow Radio Tower (1919-22)
NEW YORK - The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is preparing the first large-scale exhibition of a group of photographs documenting Russian modernist architecture. The exhibition, which opens on 17 July (until end October), will present the work of Richard Pare drawn from some 10,000 images he took of the most significant surviving modernist structures across the former Soviet Union.
Mr Pare became interested in the subject in the mid 1970s while amassing architectural photographs for the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal, where he was curator until 1989.
On a series of trips between 1993 and 2003, Mr Pare compiled the first extensive record of buildings erected after the 1917 Revolution until Stalin’s 1932 declaration that ruled out modernism as inappropriate for the Soviet regime.
“The buildings, with the exception of a few showpieces, were almost completely inaccessible until the collapse of the Soviet Union,” says Mr Pare, explaining that “little serious photography was ever carried out due to the scarcity of photographic materials and the buildings’ rapid descent into official oblivion”.
He says he found many of the masterpieces of the period—such as Moisei Ginzburg’s and Ignati Milinis’s Narkomfin Communal House in Moscow, now at the top of the World Monuments Fund’s endangered list—rapidly deteriorating. In our October issue, we published an account of the Narkomfin building (October 2006, p31). It is in a state of utter dereliction; there are two private initiatives for its rescue.
There has been extensive research devoted to Soviet painting, sculpture, and design, but relatively little exploring the architecture of the period, says Mr Pare.
The exhibition is organised by Barry Bergdoll, the recently appointed head of the Architecture and Design Department, and is expected to travel. A catalogue with 370 plates is being issued by Monacelli Press, with an essay by architectural historian Jean Louis Cohen.
By Jason Edward Kaufman, The Art Newspaper