Art and Power: Europe Under the Dictators 1930-1945

Hayward Gallery

Hayward Gallery, 26 October 1995 – 21 January 1996

Art and Power: Europe Under the Dictators 1930–1945 explored the relationship between art and politics in Europe during the 1930s and 40s.

Taking place in the 50th anniversary year of the end of the Second World War, the exhibition featured over 500 objects, among them posters, painting, sculpture, murals, photographs and representations of public architecture.

Art and Power was selected by a committee consisting of Dawn Ades from the University of Essex, Tim Benton from the Open University, David Elliott from the Museum of Modern Art Oxford and Iain Boyd Whyte from the University of Edinburgh.

This vast exhibition took over the entirety of the Hayward Gallery. Among the 87 artists and architects represented in the exhibition were Salvador Dali, Lucio Fontana, Paul Klee, Oskar Kokoschka, El Lissitzky, Joan Miro, Pablo Picasso, Kazimir Malevich and Vladimir Tatlin, as well as state-approved or patronised artists including Italian sculptors Arturo Martini and Mario Sironi.

The exhibition was structured around four cities. Opening with the 1937 Paris International Exhibition, it went on to focus on Rome, Moscow and Berlin.

In letters to potential lenders, the organising committee stated that ‘our intention is to trace the different stories in each country, to look at both official and dissident art and many varieties ... in between.’

It featured works ‘made in the service of the state’ as well as those made ‘in opposition and exile.’ Correspondence shows that the organisers considered displaying drawings by Adolf Hitler.

Lower gallery plans for art and power, showing the intended route through the space.

Upper gallery plans for Art and Power.

Press release for Art and Power.

Early exhibition outline for Art and Power.

Art and Power exhibition guide.

Private view card for Art and Power.

Art and Power was attended by 86,888 people. Opinion in the press was vastly divided. While Brian Sewell in the Evening Standard called it ‘so small and cramped that not even by implication can we taste the gigantic scale of Fascist art and architecture’, Raphael Samuel and Allison Light, writing for Blueprint, noted that ‘Art and Power sets itself tasks which it would be hard for any exhibition to fulfil ... The organisers want to question the conventional wisdom that totalitarianism and modernism have nothing in common and to show ... the interplay between them ... The outcome is more muddled than this, and possibly more interesting.’

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