Once Junk Mail Now Historical Rarity

Posted on September 8, 2011


Nikolai Fedorovich Denisovskii and Pavel Petrovich Sokolov-Skalia. Our One Thousandth Blow, 1944. Gift of the USSR Society for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries.

In dentistry or at work cleaning is always a good idea.  In 1997 the Department of Prints and Drawings at the Art Institute of Chicago  was in the middle of an architectural renovation.  So, everything was being moved out.   A storage closet used for large framed artwork that was rarely ever used was among the last to be inventoried.  The top shelf of that closet was the curator’s gold mine:  157 Soviet time Tass Agency posers from WWII. Thus, began the odyssey of the Windows on the War  exhibition.

Windows on the War features 250 posters from the war and pre-war period, 155 of which are the large-scale stenciled posters produced at the TASS, the Soviet Union’s news agency, studio.  Photographs and documentary materials reveal historical and cultural dynamic of US–USSR relations before and during the war.  It is the first time these works are being exhibited in the United States since 1940s.  Because of their material condition they will not be exhibited very often.  So, do not miss this rare opportunity!  The exhibition runs through October 23, 2011.

How “Junk Mail” of 1940s Turns Into An Exceptional Historical Rarity

Listen to Jill E. Bugajski, Exhibition Research Associate, Department of Prints & Drawings at The Art Institute of Chicago tell the story behind the exhibition.  Also, find out the historical scene through history of Tass.

The logic of the exhibition is based on the history of the Tass agency.  During World War II, the Soviet Union’s news agency was on a mission to boost support for the nation’s war effort.  The media managers engaged artists  and writers  based in Moscow.  Together, they produced hundreds of storefront window posters.  Their workload was intense:  one poster for nearly every day of the war.

Posters as International Ambassadors

The exhibition ends with posters from 1945 when ally troops marched into Berlin defeating the Nazis.  Peter Zegers, Head Curator of the exhibition came up with an idea to have a black board instead of a comment book.  The idea stems from the graphite picturing a soldier of a Red Army on the stairs of the Reichstag in Berlin. The graphite was uncovered in late 1990s just like the Art Institute uncovered their posters.  Norman Foster, an award winning architect who renovated the Reichstag  in 1990 decided to preserve the graphite to serve as a reminder of the historic events and a warning against the abuse of power.