Everyday Soviet: Soviet Industrial Design and Nonconformist Art (1959-1989)

Feb 08, 2020 - Dec 30, 2020
Voorhees Gallery

This exhibition explores Soviet material environments from the 1950s to the 1980s by juxtaposing design objects, primarily from the Moscow Design Museum, with works by nonconformist artists, from the Zimmerli.

Soviet design from the 1920s and 1930s is widely known and recognized around the world, as many renowned avant-garde artists, designers, and architects contributed to the creation of the material environment for the new century and influenced developments in international design and architecture. Soviet design from the 1950s to 1980s, however, is practically unknown, even though it flourished alongside nonconformist art during the era.

Because the postwar planned economy did not follow the Western model of encouraging consumers to replace old things with newer products, Soviet citizens acquired the limited goods and maintained them for years. In addition, innovation often met resistance at factories, which often replicated the same items for decades, despite the fact that new designs were commissioned and supported by the state.

After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989, some nonconformist artists became well known globally, represented in museum collections and represented by commercial galleries. The names of individual Soviet designers, however, remain largely unknown, as goods produced under factory labels effectively erased the names of their creators. 

Bringing together these two collections enriches and complements the understanding of both phenomena and introduces new perspectives on important historical questions. What became of the avant-garde artists’ inspiration to build a new environment for Soviet citizens during the second half of the century? What relationships developed between arts and design, and what roles have design initiatives played in a society with a planned economy and a material deficiency of goods available to citizens? How did this economic model influence the sphere of design? What greater cultural outcomes were the result of this practice of design?  

Organized by Julia Tulovsky, Ph.D., Curator of Russian and Soviet Nonconformist Art and Alexandra Sankova, Director of the Moscow Design Museum  

The exhibition is made possible by the Avenir Foundation Endowment Fund. Additional support is provided by the Dodge Charitable Trust—Nancy Ruyle Dodge, Trustee, and by donors to the Zimmerli’s Major Exhibition Fund: James and Kathrin Bergin, Alvin and Joyce Glasgold, Michael McCulley, Sundaa and Randy Jones, Hemanshu and Heena Pandya, and the Voorhees Family Endowment.

Exhibition Celebration - free and open to the public
Saturday, February 8 / 4 to 7:30pm
(Film: 4pm, Roundtable discussion: 4:45pm, Cocktail Reception: 5:30pm, Curator-led tour: 6pm)

PLEASE NOTE PARKING GUIDELINES FOR VISITORS IN DESIGNATED UNIVERSITY LOTS: If you plan to park in university lots to attend Music at the Museum, please register your license plate to avoid a possible citation. Special event parking in designated lots is for visitors only and does NOT include free metered parking. Faculty, Staff, and Students must park only in lots for which they are authorized.


Leonid Sokov

Project to Construct Glasses for every Soviet Citizen, 1976

Painted wood

4½ x 13¼ x 12¼ in. (11.3 x 33.3 x 31 cm)

Collection Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers

Norton and Nancy Dodge Collection of Nonconformist Art from the Soviet Union

Photo Jack Abraham