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Sixth World Festival of Youth and Students

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Date: 28 July – 11 August 1957

Participants: the festival hosted over 30,000 foreign guests and 160,000 Soviet delegates; the International Workshop of Plastic Arts showed 4,500 works by contemporary foreign artists from 52 countries; the International Exhibition of Fine and Applied Arts showed 375 by 223 Soviet artists, including Erik Bulatov (b. 1933), Pavel Nikonov (b. 1930), Oskar Rabin (b. 1928), and Oleg Tselkov (b. 1934)

Organized by: Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) and Communist Youth League (Komsomol)

Location: Moscow

The sixth World Festival of Youth and Students took place over two weeks in the summer of 1957, bringing over 30,000 foreign guests to the Soviet capital with the stated goal of promoting peace and friendship. After the isolation of the Stalin years, the Festival played a major role in opening up Soviet society to the West, as Soviet visitors encountered Western consumer goods, jazz music, and modernist art for the first time, and mingled with guests from abroad. For many young artists, the painting exhibitions, coming on the heels of the hugely successful Picasso retrospective at the Pushkin Museum the previous year, were a revelation. Many unofficial and nonconformist artists of the 1960s generation attribute their later bold explorations of modernist idioms to this formative experience.

The photographs presented here were shot by Igor Palmin, a recently-graduated geology student at the time, who had obtained a coveted ticket to the opening festivities at Luzhniki Stadium. He managed to document many of the Festival’s delegations and crowded cultural events, assembling the shots into a handmade annotated album, from which these pages are taken. In the following decades, Palmin would become one of the most prolific documentarians of the Soviet artistic underground as well as a distinguished photographer for such publications as Iskusstvo, Sovetskii khudozhnik, and Sovetskii pisatel. His portraits of unofficial artists in their studios and candid shots of special gatherings convey something of the warmth of underground social life in the last decades of the Soviet Union.


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