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SchriftBild. Russische Avantgarde

Exhibition of the German Museum of Books and Writing of the German National Library in Leipzig

Press release:  27.5.2015

The German Museum of Books and Writing of the German National Library is presenting the "SchriftBild. Russische Avantgarde" exhibition from 5 June to 4 October 2015. The exhibition will be officially opened on Thursday, 4 June at 19:30 in the Museum Foyer of the German National Library in Leipzig.

The "SchriftBild. Russische Avantgarde" exhibition provides an insight into an unprecedented experiment: the artists of the Russian avant-garde countered the academic bourgeois art culture prevalent in Russia at the start of the 20th century by redefining art. They not only tore down the accepted distinction between high and low culture which had been passed down over the centuries, they also did away with the boundaries between the different forms of art. Language, script and images were blended together to create a synthesis, new types of universal signs and symbols were created. In their feverish search for a new visual language, the artists forged links between technical and cultural progress, imagined a dynamic world in which machines and humans mutually inspired each other, and conceived visionary graphic paradoxes.

When the "new wild artists" of Russian culture boldly declared their art to be a "backlash" against bourgeois sensibilities, the academic art world had no idea just what impact the avant-garde and their works would have. Initially fêted by the political elite of the young Soviet Union as the creators of a new kind of propaganda art, the artists of the Russian avant-garde fell into disfavour under Stalin with their unrestrained desire for innovation. Neither the theoretical ideas nor the all-encompassing nature of the young artists' protest fitted in with the state-controlled agitation art of Soviet realism.

It is difficult to overestimate the cultural influence of the Russian avant-garde on the growing modernist movement of the 20th century. Neither Yves Klein nor Barnett Newman, Ad Reinhardt or Donald Judd would have been conceivable without this modernising impetus. Through its unmistakable modernity and "vigour", the design revolution launched by the Russian avant-garde still has the capacity to surprise 100 years after its birth. It remains style-defining to this day in the fields of art and typography, painting, poster design, advertising and book design.

Thanks to the generous support of numerous Russian lenders, the "SchriftBild. Russische Avantgarde" exhibition is able to present works from all the important Russian artists of the time, including Vladimir Mayakovsky, Alexander Rodchenko, Natalia Goncharova, Pavel Tretyakov and Varvara Stepanova. The show, organised by the German Museum of Books and Writing of the German National Library during the Year of German-Russian Literature initiated by the Federal Foreign Office in cooperation with the State Museum and Exhibition Centre ROSIZO in Moscow, provides a unique insight into this multifaceted cultural revolution at the start of the 20th century.

Leipzig, the former capital of books and still a stronghold of typography, is also home to one of the few typographic training centres in the form of the Academy of Visual Arts, and as such is the ideal location for this exhibition. The "Russian avant-garde" as a subject fits perfectly into the range of topics covered by the German Museum of Books and Writing as part of a series of exhibitions devoted to the "Golden Twenties" planned for the coming years. The aim here is to honour the culture of this modern decade which is of such interest on account of its shimmering fragility, and to support research and publications on the period in the run-up to its centenary.

To accompany the exhibition an information and picture book is being published; this has been made possible by the generous financial support of "Gesellschaft für das Buch e.V.", the circle of friends and patrons of the German National Library. The 196-page book contains images of all 160 works featured in the exhibition.

SchriftBild. Russische Avantgarde

Exhibition of the German Book and Writing Museum of the German National Library in Leipzig
5 June to 4 October 2015
Tuesday to Sunday 10:00 - 18:00, Thursday 10:00 - 20:00, National holidays (except Mondays) 10:00 - 18:00. Admission is free of charge.

Exhibition opens: 19:30 on 4 June

Welcome: Michael Fernau, Director of the German National Library in Leipzig
Introduction: Dr. Stephanie Jacobs, Head of the German Museum of Books and Writing
Introducing the exhibition: Faina Balakhovskaya, State Museum and Exhibition Center ROSIZO
Vocal performance: Axel Thielmann, recitation and vocals. With musical accompaniment

Guided tours of the exhibition

25 June, 11:00 / 10 September, 11:00 / 29 September, 11:00


The book has shaped our culture and civilisation like no other medium. For centuries our knowledge about the world and its peoples has been stored in books. The task of the German Museum of Books and Writing of the German National Library is to collect, exhibit and process evidence of book and media history. Founded in 1884 as the Deutsches Buchgewerbemuseum (German Book Trade Museum), it is the oldest museum in the world in the field of book culture, and also one of the most important with regard to the scope and quality of its stocks.

The main focus is on the book and its myriad aspects: as an ingenious invention and as the product of economic and technical processes, as a social icon and the most important vehicle of culture, as a work of art and as a censored and burned repository of ideas.

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