Russian Revolution: Hope, Tragedy, Myths
April to August 2017, British Library
Marking the 100 year anniversary the exhibition tells the incredible story of the Revolution through posters, letters, photographs, banners, weapons, items of uniform, recordings and film: from a luxury souvenir album of the Tsar’s coronation to propaganda wallpaper hand-painted by women factory workers alongside many propaganda posters from all sides.
As well as giving an overview of momentous events all the way from the last days of the Russian Empire and the downfall of the last Tsar Nicholas II until the rise of the first communist state under Lenin’s leadership, the exhibition also focuses on the lives of ordinary people who lived through the period, using letters, diaries and photographs.
The introduction area presents two maps showing the vastness of the Russian Empire and suggests the opulence of the Tzar’s palace with crystal chandeliers and dramatic red drapes. As visitors descend the stairs, the red drapes give way to a large red structure - called The Red Line - that winds though the gallery and carries the visitor through the timeline of events. It forms a symbolic and literal barricade, creating enclosure, directing visitors and providing energy and movement though the story. It presents objects, holds graphic imagery and takes projection. It was composed of simple steel ladder frames connected by solid panels or semi-transparent fabric-covered frames - simple components which together create a large, complex and dramatic installation.
The overlapping fabric frames are printed with imagery of the mass of people from all social strata, caught up in the revolution - from rural peasants to the soldiers, royal family to Lenin and his comrades. It creates a timeline connecting the introduction area showing the vast Russian Empire and continues through early revolutionary activity, the Tzar’s abdication before opening up to form a larger high space, encircled with semi-transparent threads recalling a forest clearing where the Civil War is presented including a large projected map showing the extent of the war and factions involved.
Later sections look at the spread of revolution around the world, the formation of the communist state and the legacy of film and literature from this turbulent period.
Client: British Library
Exhibition Design: Hara Clark
Graphic Design: Fernando Lai Couto
Lighting Design: DHA
Audio Visual: Clay Interactive
Photograph credit: Nick Wood
This is the best Russian Revolution exhibition of the year so far.