The Russian Avant-garde and sport

24 January - 18 May 2014

What was it about sport that so fascinated Russian artists such as Stepanova, Klucis and Rodchenko that it graced their artistic endeavours?
This intriguing question is the underlying theme of an exhibition that looks at how sport was portrayed in the Soviet Union in the 1920s and 1930s through the work of avant-garde artists.

The exhibition focuses on the unlikely interest in sport shown by artists, photographers, graphic designers, film makers and poets in the Soviet Union in the 1920s and 1930s. What was it about these popular pursuits that appealed to Stepanova, Klucis orRodchenko and others to such an extent that it influenced the practices of generations of artists?

To address this question, we need to look back to the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the birth of a society that aimed to break down barriers of class and privilege, giving everyone access to activities that had previously been out of reach. The fledgling USSR wanted to bring sport to the populace, and mass sports activities were organised in workplaces and schools. Avant-garde artists felt they had a part to play in building this new society. Many films, photos and magazines used sport as a paradigm for their views.

What began in Russia led to similar developments in other countries. Applied arts such as photography, film and graphic design began portraying sport, competition, achievement and physical effort in entirely new ways, profoundly changing the way people viewed the body and the human element. The exhibition aims to shed light on these new conceptions by comparing and contrasting a variety of works across time and space.


Guided tours:

• 26 January at 2.30 p.m. (Entrance hall, level.0)
• Focus on cinema, with exhibition commissioner Professor François Albera

• 16 February at 2.30 p.m. (Entrance hall, level 0)
• Focus on photography, with art historian Daniel Girardin


Thursday 20 February at 6.30 p.m. - Galerie (Level +2)
Free of charge, for all ages
The Moscow Spartakiade in 1928 and portraying an athletic image of
Soviet society internationally, by André Gounot, professor at Strasbourg University.
Sport in every-day activities in the USSR,
between 1920 and 1930, by Sylvain Dufraisse, history lecturer.

The Russian Avant-garde saw sport in a different light; intellectuals sought another vision of sport, and tried to integrate it into art.

In the young USSR, what were the differences between the so-called bourgeois sports and sports for the masses?


The new man was the representation of a society moving forward, and the national press promoted the image of a Soviet superman.

What did the term champion mean in the USSR?

Film cycle at the Swiss Film Archive

The Olympic Museum is delighted to be associated with the Swiss Film Archive (Cinémathèque suisse) which is showing a cycle of eight films dedicated to avant-garde Russian directors who took sporting activities as one of their themes.
It will be fascinating to discover the extent to which sport became a field of endless experimentation for the cinema.

Les aventures extraordinaires de Mister West au pays des bolcheviks (77 min), Collectif Kouléchov, 1924

La fièvre des échecs (27 min),Vsevolod Poudovkine et Chpikovski, 1925
28.01 (18h30), 12.02 (15h), 22.02 (15h)
28.01 at 6.30 pm, 12.02 at 3 pm, 22.02 at 3 pm

La poupée aux millions (91 min), Serguey Komarov, 1928
4.02 (15h), 20.02 (18h30)
4.02 at 3 pm, 20.02 at 6.30 pm

L’homme à la caméra (80 min), Dziga Vertov, 1928
29.01 (15h), 11.02 (21h)
29.01 at 3 pm, 11.02 at 9 pm

Printemps / La joie de vivre (60 min), Mikhail Kaufman, 1929
31.01 (18h30), 17.01 (18h30)
31.01 at 6.30 pm, 17.01 at 6.30 pm

Seule (82 min), Grigori Kozintsev et Leonid Trauberg, 1931
30.01 (18h30), 7.02 (15h), 25.02 (21h)
30.01 at 6.30 pm, 7.02 at 3 pm, 25.02 at 9 pm

Le vieux jockey (82min),
Boris Barnet, 1939
5.02 (15h), 14.02 (21h), 25.02 (18h30)
5.02 at 3 pm, 14.02 at 9 pm, 25.02 at 6.30 pm

Un jeune homme sévère (101 min), Abram Room, 1936
6.02 (18h30), 19.02 (21h), 28.02 (18h30)
6.02 at 6.30 pm, 19.02 at 9 pm, 28.02 at 6.30 pm