Cold War-era creativity

  • 2009-10-29
  • By Rokas M. Tracevskis

FROM BROWN TO RED: "Hail to the Red Army Protectors of the New World" reads this Czech poster of 1945.

VILNIUS - The Cold War is back. Don't worry too much, though. This is about the British-made Cold War-era design exhibition now taking place in the National Gallery of Art, which itself is some kind of example of Cold War-era design because it was built as the Revolution Museum where, in the 1980s, the art of socialist realism and memorabilia of top communist farts were held. The building was reconstructed over several years and in June 2009, it became the world's top level gallery that is able to meet the highest standards on temperature and humidity.

Until Dec. 6, the National Gallery of Art, a branch of the Lithuanian Art Museum, presents the London-based Victoria & Albert Museum's exhibition "Cold War Modern: Design 1945 - 1970" as part of a project of the program "Vilnius - European Capital of Culture 2009." The exhibition displays some 300 objects from around the world including from the U.S., the Soviet Union, China, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Italy, France, East and West Germany, Cuba and the United Kingdom.

The variety is huge: space suits of U.S. astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts, a jacket of comrade Mao, films by Stanley Kubrick and Andrei Tarkovsky, paintings by Robert Rauschenberg and Gerhard Richter, fashion by Paco Rabanne, a headscarf and plates designed by Pablo Picasso, designs by Charles and Ray Eames and Dieter Rams, architecture by Le Corbusier, Richard Buckminster Fuller and Archigram, and vehicles including a West German-made Messerschmidt micro car and East German-made P70 Coupe, which is an early version of the famous Trabant.

The Polish tapestry made at the end of the Stalinist period shows, among other things, American port workers destroying armaments. The painting from 1947 presents a Moscow skyscraper. This style of Stalinist architecture was later exported to Eastern European cities such as Warsaw, trying to Sovietize the cityscape there.

In the 1960s, the space race inspired Western designers to create fashion which mirrored the futurism of the age such as the armor mini-skirt by Paco Rabanne. The new materials were employed to create fashion of tomorrow. The space-style chairs and TV sets are also presented at the exhibition.
Under the theme of "Revolution," a section of the exhibition considers forms of protest and rebellion, including the revolts of 1968 in Prague and Paris. The latter is presented by a student-made poster.
The exhibition ends with the first photograph of Earth taken from space, which acted as a catalyst to a new environmental awareness.

Taking into account that recently Fareed Zakaria, one of the most intellectual hosts on CNN, advised his viewers to read "The New Cold War: Putin's Russia and the Threat to the West" by Edward Lucas, maybe it's time to start thinking about the creation of an exhibition of design of another Cold War-era.

Exhibition "Cold War Modern: Design 1945-1970"
The National Gallery of Art, Vilnius.
Konstitucijos pr. 22
Opening hours:
Tuesday - Saturday 10:00 - 19:00
Sunday 11:00 - 17:00
Closed on Mondays