Tatlin’s Tower or The Monument to the Third International
The other day I posted a picture of Ai Wei Wei’s Fountain of Light, a piece that’s a direct quotation of Tatlin’s Tower. Vladimir Tatlin was a Soviet artist who created The Monument to the Third International in 1920. After the Bolshevik Revolution, Lenin introduced the concept of “Monumental Propaganda” and went about replacing Tsarist art and monuments with Socialist works. Tatlin was placed in charge of implementing this Soviet art plan and conceived of The Monument to the Third International as the ultimate Soviet monument.
The tower was meant to be over 400 meters in height, the largest structure of its kind and a direct challenge to Paris’ Eiffel Tower. It’s constructed from iron, glass, and steel, industrial materials symbolic of the importance of the laborer/working class to the new Marxist regime. The tower would be the ultimate symbol of modernity and reposition Soviet Russia as Europe’s leading site of modern art and architecture. The Soviet critic Viktor Borisovich Shklovsky stated that it was a monument “made of steel, glass and revolution.”
Unfortunately, the monument was never constructed. The model of the tower and the concept of a work of art that serves a purely Marxist agenda was hugely influential though, and the piece remains one of the defining works of Constructivist Architecture. Tatlin and his tower will be featured in the new MoMA exhibition Inventing Abstraction, which has a nifty website you can find here!