Paper Architecture: Mausoleum


Celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of Paper Architecture, the project of the State Tretyakov Gallery and the Interros Publishing Program exhibits works by “paper architects” recently acquired by the State Tretyakov Gallery.

On 1 August 1984, the first ever exhibition of Paper Architecture opened at the editorial officies of the Junost’ (Youth) magazine on Mayakovsky Square in Moscow. The phrase consequently entered the lexicon of Russian art. Selim Khan-Magomedov regarded Paper Architecture as the third most important phenomenon in Soviet architecture, after Constructivism in the 1920s and Neoclassicism in the 1930s. Arising as a reaction to the stagnation in the Soviet architecture of the 1970s and 1980s, in parallel to the contributions of young architects to international competitions of architectural ideas,

Paper Architecture developed into a special genre of contemporary fine art, combining features of architectural design, conceptualism and easel graphic art.

Over a short period of time from 1981 to 1987, works of Paper Architecture took over fifty prizes at international competitions, primarily in Japan. Riding the general wave of Glasnost, exhibitions of Paper Architecture were held in galleries and museums throughout the world. Such works can now be found not only in architectural museums in Moscow and Frankfurt, but also in such collections of fine art as the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow,

the Russian Museum in St Petersburg, the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. In this way, Paper Architecture has firmly established itself both in the history of contemporary art and the Russian architecture of the last quarter of the twentieth century. The last compilation exhibition was Paper Architecture: Alma Mater. Showing a hundred works by over fifty artists, this exhibition was held at the Moscow Institute of Architecture in 1992.

The exciting – albeit short-lived – success of Paper Architecture on the international arena demonstrated the power of these talented creative personalities – and the general cultural inertia that they finally managed to overcome.

The installation at the Tretyakov Gallery takes the form of a cardboard mausoleum, recalling both the Tower of Babel (which man attempted to erect in a confusion of tongues, without a basic plan) and Lenin’s last resting-place on Red Square (next to which Soviet children were initiated into the Pioneers a quarter of a century ago). In this one country, the utopian idea of building a tower with its head in the sky proved to be nothing more than a pipedream. Paper Architecture has remained on paper: its pioneers now work on the ground, on Moscow construction sites, while their transcendental fantasies repose in museum collections.

Государственная Третьяковская Галерея, сентябрь 2009

State Tretyakov Gallery, September 2009