Comprising two exhibitions, the Sainsbury Centre’s Russia Season marks the centenary of the Russian Revolution by contrasting art, life and culture before and after this seismic event.
Running concurrently, Royal Fabergé and Radical Russia explore very different artistic influences in Russian society, from the glittering rein of Peter Carl Fabergé, jeweller to the Russian imperial court, to the avant-garde provocateurs who transformed early 20th-century art and culture between the years of 1905 and 1930.
Royal Fabergé also tells the story of the special connection between Fabergé and Norfolk, and how the workshop came to supply Sandringham with sculptures of the estate’s animals. After Edward VII commissioned Peter Carl to produce portrait sculptures of his dogs and horses in 1907, the project expanded to include all of the estate’s wild animals and pets. More than 100 wax models were produced on site by Fabergé’s best sculptors and then sent to Russia to be rendered in hardstones, gemstones, gold, silver and platinum, as directed the lead artist himself.
Many of these exquisite pieces – on loan from the Royal Collection – form the centrepiece of this exhibition, with further major loans from collections in Britain, Russia and America offering a wider-lens view of the Fabergé workshop and its craftsmen.
Meanwhile, Radical Russia explores how artists used their work to put important social issues in front of the public, and includes paintings by Malevich and designs by El Lissitzky and Vladimir Tatlin. The exhibition demonstrates how artists didn’t limit themselves by medium, but worked across everything from poetry to urban planning to convey their messages – and even includes a dramatic architectural model, Tatlin’s Tower, situated in the sculpture park outside the venue to show how the avant-garde wanted to transform the physical environment of the Soviet state.