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'A Game in Hell: The Great War in Russia' on view at GRAD: Gallery for Russian Arts and Design
Vladimir Malevich, Modern Lubok Postcard, 1914-1917. Courtesy Anthony d'Offay and GRAD.

LONDON.- GRAD’s contribution to the First World War centennial commemorations examines the artistic and historical significance of the conflict in Russia. This landmark exhibition, organised in collaboration with the State Mayakovsky Museum and The Russian State Archives of Film and Photography, brings together a rich variety of contemporaneous materials, many of which are on display for the first time. Exhibits include hand-crafted Futurist books, propaganda posters, satirical prints by avant-garde artists such as Kazimir Malevich and unique photograph albums depicting life on the Eastern Front. The exhibition is accompanied by a new, richly illustrated bilingual publication edited by John E. Bowlt, Nicoletta Misler and Elena Sudakova with articles from international scholars.

The forgotten histories of pilots of the First World War are vividly brought to life through an exceptional collection of the private photographs of serving military personnel. These represent a unique visual record which captures group and individual portraits of the officers, tells the story of early Russian aviation and comments on the socio-political changes in Russia during the war. These are complimented by archival footage courtesy of the Russian State Archives of Film and Photography.

Also on display are examples of Russian satirical and popular prints, or lubki. Descended from Russia’s folk art tradition in style and technique, these propaganda prints communicated news of Russian and allied victories, immortalised individual acts of bravery and vilified the enemy. The exhibition also displays a significant collection of rare Futurist books on loan from the State Mayakovsky Museum including hand-made publications by artists such as Olga Rozanova, Aleksei Kruchenykh, Velimir Khlebnikov, Pavel Filonov and Kazimir Malevich.

Many of the exhibits come from the exceptional Moscow collection of Sergey Shestakov, which consists of around 500 printed items, periodicals and graphic designs and over 2,000 photographs. Shestakov’s collection is particularly important due to the dearth of materials relating to the First World War in Russian and international museums. This year’s centennial commemoration provides an opportunity to examine the First World War from new perspectives and Shestakov’s collection reveals a plurality of personal stories of Russians affected by the War. Through these rare and revealing objects, ‘A Game in Hell. The Great War in Russia’ examines public, personal and artistic responses to the conflict and reveals the remarkable surge in the creative output of Russian avant-garde artists at this turning point in Russian and world history.

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