Displaying International Communism: The Exhibition of Socialist Countries (Moscow, 1958)

Lecture | March 5 | 5:15-6:45 p.m. | 180 Doe Library

 Matteo Bertelé, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Global Fellow at the University of California Santa Barbara, Universität Hamburg and Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Ca’ Foscari University

 Institute of Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ISEEES)

The Exhibition of Socialist Countries, held in the Moscow Manege in 1958, was the first large exhibition ever organized in the socialist hemisphere, with more than two thousand artworks from twelve East-European and Asian countries. Conceived as a socialist response to the Venice Biennale - branded as the main international showcase for “decadent and bourgeois art from capitalist nations” - the exhibition intended to celebrate the achievements in fine arts in the Soviet Union and its brotherly states, providing the ground for a polycentric international art community under the shared “humanistic” principles of socialist art. Addressing to “progressive forces worldwide”, the exhibition organizers referred to both the “actually existing” and the “ideal” socialist art community, expecting to pave the way for a Communist International of the arts. While the artworks on display were demanded to show plurality in uniformity and cohesion in diversity, the initiative was intended as a platform of cooperation and cultural exchange among the involved countries, thus creating a precedent for a comprehensive socialist cultural diplomacy in the field of fine arts. The paper intends to highlight the significance of the exhibition and to investigate the reasons why the initiative – unlike its main counter model – was not iterated in the future.