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12. Utopia in Retreat: The Closure of the State Museum of New Western Art in 1948

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Chapter Summary

This chapter explores the role and position of Western art from the onset of the First Five-Year Plan (1928) through to the period of late Stalinism, by focusing on the history of State Museum of New Western Art (Gosudarstvennyi muzei novogo zapadnogo iskusstva - GMNZI). It looks at how masterpieces of Western art history became regarded as harmful 'breeding grounds for formalist tendencies'. The artistic heritage and museum collections were reinterpreted in accordance with the October Revolution, in terms of economic and class relations, where progress was based on the shifts of historical events and world revolutions, as opposed to formal innovation and experiment. Envisaged as a utopian bastion of modern international art, GMNZI soon became 'unwanted' heritage, and through a carefully orchestrated and manipulated public campaign had begun to represent modern Western art as a symbol of dystopia.

Keywords: dystopia; First Five-Year Plan; late Stalinism; October Revolution; State Museum of New Western Art; utopian bastion



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