Visit to Izostat archive in Moscow

In April 2011 a group of Russian museum employees visited Ontwerpwerk in the context of the project Museum Token by the Professional Association of Cultural Managers. With the support of the Dutch Embassy in Moscow and with a travel subsidy from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we, Ed Annink and Laura van Uitert from Ontwerpwerk, conducted a counter visit to Moscow from November 29th till December 1st, 2011. We have had around ten meetings in two and a half day. One of them was a meeting with the Russian Izostat expert Vladimir Krichevski and Svetlana Artamonova, deputy-head of the graphic department of the Russian State Library.

Krichevski learned about Izostat in the 1980s, when Flip Bool informed him about it during their discussions on Russian-Dutch cultural ties in the Interbellum. Otto Neurath (1882-1945) received an invitation to come to the young Soviet Union and set up an institute for visual statistics in Moscow. The institute existed from 1931 till 1940 and was named 'All-union institute of pictorial statistics of Soviet construction and economy' (Всесоюзный институт изобразительной статистики советского строительства и хозяйства, ИЗОСТАТ), in short Izostat. Neurath and Arntz regularly traveled to Moscow in the 1930s, untill in 1934 the Gesellschafts- und Wirtschaftsmuseum in Vienna was closed because of the take over of Vienna by Dollfuss. Both Neurath and Arntz fled directly from Moscow to The Hague, where Neurath had already opened a branch of the Vienna museum.

Vladimir Krichevski did research the history of the institute, but it appeared very hard to find detailed information in Russia. Even someone who actually worked at the institute couldn't answer all his questions about what exactly happened during the period 1934-1940. Krichevski showed us where the Izostat headquarter used to be, in a former printing company (9 Blo'shoi Komsomol'sky pereulok).

The Russian State Library (before the Lenin Library) possesses over 43 million (!) library units. It has an interesting collection of publications with visual statistics made after the Izostat method from 1932 - 1940. Svetlana Artamonova showed us all publications which were in the library at that time (some were at another location for filing) and we were allowed photograph them. Among them the beautiful publication 'Aviation and Airflight' (1934). In the publications dated after 1934 (when Neurath left Moscow with his group of international employees), the visual statistics including the pictograms become more realistic. Furthermore the library has an enormous collection of political posters from other artists from this period. None of the Izostat publications is digitalised.

Read more on Gerd Arntz on the Gerd Arntz web archive

Laura van Uitert

 
 

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