Hayward Gallery, 26 February – 18 April 1971
As the exhibition's release stated, its purpose was to 'show the work of the first Soviet designers in architecture and other allied fields in the years immediately following the October Revolution’, drawing attention to the ‘historic innovations of Soviet artists who ... developed the blueprints of Soviet modern design.’
Visitors entered the exhibition through a foyer in which popular songs of the Revolutionary period were playing. In the first room of the exhibition, they encountered a three screen film-work compiled by director Lutz Becker from original documentary footage of the Revolution.
As they moved through the lower galleries, they found examples of agit-prop – political education methods used in the first years if the Revolution – and models of stage sets by pioneering designers.
Also in the upper galleries, though not on display during the exhibition, was a reconstruction of El Lissitzky’s Proun Room (1923), a three-dimensional space containing compositions and reliefs, designed by the artist, architect and typographer for an exhibition at the Grosse Berliner Kunstausstellung.
The Proun Room was the source of tension between the Arts Council and the Soviet Ministry of Culture. Shortly before Art in Revolution opened to the public the Russian government demanded that the Proun Room – reconstructed by the Van Abbemuseum in the Netherlands for the exhibition – be removed, and threatened to withdraw their loans if the work was included.
As a result, the Proun Room – already in situ – was sealed by the exhibition designers, and the door painted over.