El Lissitkzy, Proun, ca. 1922-1923
Photo: Peter Cox
September 19, 2009 – September 5, 2010
In September 2009 the Van Abbemuseum launches the three-year Lissitzky+ project, in which the museum will be casting new light on its renowned Lissitzky collection. This takes the form of a triptych of exhibitions, each exploring a particular theme, continuing through 2012. The first part, Lissitzky+, Victory over the Sun, opens on 19 September 2009. An entire floor of the museum has been rearranged for these new presentations. The Van Abbemuseum has invited a leading authority on the Russian avant-garde Professor John Milner of the Courtauld Institute, London to curate Lissitzky+.
A rich collection and unique loans
El (Lazar Markovich) Lissitzky (1890-1941) was an architect, painter, graphic artist, a designer of furniture, books and posters, a writer, theatre producer and photographer. He was also an indefatigable traveller, the official cultural ambassador for the new Soviet Russia, and the prototype of the networking, ubiquitously active artist.
Victory over the Sun, the futurist opera that received its premiere in St. Petersburg in 1913, is the focal point of the first exhibition. After the second staging of this opera in 1920, Lissitzky hatched plans to mechanize the work and produced drawings and prints of his proposals that are held in the museum’s collection.
The Victory over the Sun exhibition draws extensively on the Van Abbemuseum’s collection and includes major works from other international museums. This includes works by Malevich from the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, which have not been exhibited for many years. Some of his drawings are to be shown in the Netherlands for the first time.
Lissitzky in three dimensions
The Van Abbemuseum is the first institution ever to have rendered important designs by Lissitzky as three-dimensional figures, wholly in keeping with Lissitzky’s ideological intentions. Milner about this: ‘At one point, Lissitzky writes “I am not going to do this. You can do this.” I started looking at his work and thinking: ‘What is he suggesting? What is the potential of these things?’ When you look at a little lithograph for instance you begin to see that it is essentially city planning or architecture, so this gave us the chance to make some models to see what they would look like. We are not making ‘fake Lissitzkys’; but trying to convey the idea that there is a proposition here, that you can change the world and this is how you can do it. We’re just taking it forward a step.’
Victory over the Sun is a unique opportunity to experience the cultural energy of the early 20th century.