The Revolution Is Dead!

BY Katrina Kufer / Apr 24 2017 / 22:17 PM

Museums join forces to commemorate the centenary of the 1917 Russian October Revolution and how it changed art history

The Revolution Is Dead!
© the artist. Image courtesy of Annet Gelink Gallery, Amsterdam, and Sommer Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv
Yael Bartana. And Europe Will Be Stunned / Zamach (Assassination). 2011. Single channel video and sound installation. 35 minutes.

Zentrum Paul Klee and the Kunstmuseum Bern have collaborated on the exhibition The Revolution is dead. Long live the Revolution! highlighting a moment that created an art historical paradigm shift. In addition to surveying the ensuing art movements through an extensive list of artists, the show delves into how art reflects social revolution and what that looks like today.

Curators Kathleen Bühler (Kunstmuseum Bern) along with Michael Baumgartner and Fabienne Eggelhöfer (Zentrum Paul Klee) provide astute insight into the repercussions and ramifications of revolutionary art and its subversive content with the Russian Revolution as a case study. In the process, they reveal the connection between the Russian avant-garde (Suprematism and Constructivism), which emerged in the late 19th century, and the ideologically and aesthetically disparate state-supported Socialist Realism, both of which significantly impacted 20th century art far beyond Russia’s geographical boundaries.

The Zentrum Paul Klee focuses on works from the modernist Suprematism (the main associated artist, Kazimir Malevich, believed in creating through the supremacy of pure feeling as opposed to visual depiction and was vehemently anti-materialist) and Constructivism movements, within which innovators such as Vladimir Tatlin and Alexander Rodchenko, approached making as engineers by adapting artistic principles into functional form. Ground-breaking in its reliance on geometric abstraction and construction, the Russian avant-garde proved inspirational on a global scale, significantly impacting Minimalism and Conceptual art in the USA several decades later during the 1960s and 70s.

Meanwhile, at the Kunstmuseum Bern, the developments of Socialist Realism as propaganda to portray Communist values are outlined through the quasi-realistic utopian portraiture and scenes of supposedly idyllic lives of golden-haired “hero workers”. However, by the 60s, as the Soviet Union began to disintegrate, the visual tropes evolved, taking progressively bolder approaches towards societal criticism. Shifting from pastiche to subversive set pieces, artists such as Deineka and Bartana utilised the symbols now devoid of meaning in their sharp criticisms of a disillusioned, late-capitalist society.

The Revolution is Dead. Long live the Revolution! From Malevich to Judd, from Deineka to Bartana runs until 9 July at Kunstmuseum Bern and Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern, Switzerland. For more information visit