I. New York, Paris, Moscow

by Zoë Lescaze

Nikolai Suetin. Teapot. c. 1923. Porcelain with overglaze painted decoration. Museum of Modern Art, New York.

In the years following the Russian Revolution, no object was too small, domestic, or banal to serve as an agent of radical influence. When the Bolsheviks seized control of the Imperial Porcelain Factory in 1917, they hung onto the fine china intended for the tsar. Instead of smashing the whiteware to bits in a rousing denunciation of bourgeois extravagance — sic semper saucers — they saw an opportunity, a chance to scrap the boundaries between art and everyday life. They invited leading abstract painters who fervently believed their work could galvanize the masses to emblazon the blank vessels with bold new designs. Theirs would be a world in which ideology infiltrated physical reality, where utopian philosophy found concrete form. The proletariat was to be inspired, directly, by crockery.
The full article is available in Even no. 7, published in summer 2017.

Zoë Lescaze is a writer and art critic in New York. Her book Paleoart: Visions of the Prehistoric Past, 1830–1990 is forthcoming from Taschen.