Art for the workers explores the mythology and reality of post-revolutionary proletarian art in Russia as well as its expression in the festive decorations of Petrograd between 1917 and 1920. It covers this brief period chronologically, and so permits a close inspection of the development of artistic policies in Russia under the Provisional Government followed by the Bolsheviks. Specifically, this book focuses on the pre-and post-revolutionary debate about the nature of proletarian art and its role in the new Socialist society, particularly focusing on festive decorations, parades and mass performances as expressions of proletarian art and forms of propaganda.
This book is the first biography of Nikolay Punin (1888-1953). One of the most prominent art-critics of the avant-garde, in 1919 Punin was the Commissar of the Hermitage and Russian Museums, he was lecturing at the Academy of Arts and at the State University in Petrograd (and subsequently Leningrad). He was the right hand of Lunacharsky and the head of the Petrograd branch of the Visual Arts Department of Narkompross. From 1913 till 1938, Punin worked at the Russian Museum and organized several major exhibitions of Russian art. Yet his name is not widely known in the West, primarily because his file languished in the KGB archives since he died in 1953, partly because his grave in the Gulag where he died is marked only by a number, and partly because his own reputation became submerged under that of his lover, poet and writer Anna Akhmatova. Through the life and inheritance of Nikolay Punin, this book will examine the very phenomenon of the Russian avant-garde and its fate after the October Revolution, as well as the artistic trends and cultural policies which dominated Soviet art in the 1930-1950s.
For an interview with the author on
The Voice of Russia (July 19th, 2012):