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The Sunset Fired a Hundred Suns

10 Nov 2023–10 Mar 2024
Pump room
Age restrictions

The exhibition tells the story of cosmic dreams and disappointments from the beginning of the twentieth century to our day, the epoch of universal fascination with space and its reflection in Soviet art.


In 1957, the Soviet Union released the first artificial satellite into orbit, and in 1961, a man. In 1969, American astronauts set foot on the Moon. It seemed that the dream of conquering the endless expanse of the Universe was about to become reality. The radiant smiles of the first cosmonauts gave hope of the unification of humanity: the stars connected, promised universal equality, and gave birth to a new mythology. In reality, however, this cosmic utopia was born of the confrontation between the USSR and the United States. And the romance of interplanetary exploration, replicated in songs, badges, and postcards, became an important propaganda subject in both countries.

Illustration: Stepan Lipatov, Varya Fomicheva

By the end of the twentieth century, mass enthusiasm regarding the space had waned. Romance had been replaced by commerce, and techno-optimism by scepticism: the settling of Mars had come to seem even more difficult an undertaking than flights to the stars had seemed in the middle of the previous century. The title of this exhibition references a poem by Vladimir Mayakovsky, “An Extraordinary Adventure Which Befell Vladimir Mayakovsky In a Summer Cottage” (1920). The energetic description of the meeting of the poet with the sun is a comprehensive metaphor of an era in which utopia still seemed possible. Today, the spatial ardour has faded away, and a slightly modified line from the poem proposes a different perspective on space exploration.

The Sunset Fired a Hundred Suns comprises four parts. “Our Century” is about the Soviet 1960s—1980s: monumental socialist realist canvases are juxtaposed with daring artistic experiments in which the conquering and comprehending the Universe is represented in a metaphorical key. “Sketches of the Future” is dedicated to the ways in which the spatial future was perceived by different artists, from the avant-gardists to the non-conformists. Installations and videos that reexamine the place of the cosmos in history and society are gathered in a separate space.

In the final part of the exhibition—“On the Edge of Utopia”—non-conformist artists debunk the world view that prevailed in the modern era in order to then put together their own models of interaction with the universe.

Photo: Daniil Annenkov

Authors and artists

Igor Anisiforov — Galina Balashova — Nuotama Frances Bodomo — Mikhail Borisov — Ilya Chashnik — Vasily Chekrygin — Yin-Ju Chen  — Viktor Chernovolenko — Pyotr Fateyev — Inārs Helmūts — Ruben Ghevondyan — Natalia Goncharova — Francisco Infante-Arana — Ilya and Emilia Kabakov — Pavel Klushantsev — Gustav Klutsis — Gennady Koryagin — Valery Koshlyakov — Georgy Krutikov — Kaleriya Kukulieva and Boris Kukuliev — Ivan Leonidov — Alexei Leonov and Andrei Sokolov — El Lissitzky — Vyacheslav Loktev — Armando Lulaj — Kazimir Malevich — Kamil Mullashev — Boris Okorokov — Anton Olshvang — Artavazd Peleshyan — Mikhail Pyaskovsky — Anatoly Plakhov — Mikhail Plaksin — Yuri Pokhodaev — Mikhail Romadin — Alexander Sheko — Sergey Shigolev — Yuri Sobolev (Nolev) — Boris Smertin — Boris Smirnov-Rusetsky — Jonas Švajas — Arkady Tyurin — Saulius Valius — Nikolai Vechtomov — Konstantin Yuon

Andrey Vasilenko, Artem Timonov

DD:A|D — Petr Tolpin, Anna Manzarova

Ksenia Kosaya

Alisa Kekelidze, Veronika Luchnikova, Sasha Chistova

Media Specialist
Serafima Monakhova

The exhibition is organised in collaboration with

Collection of Pierre-Christian Brochet
Gosfilmofond of Russia
Mayakovsky State Museum
Moscow Museum and Exhibition Association Manege
Moscow Museum of Modern Art
Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
Museum of Cosmonautics in Moscow
ROSIZO State Museum and Exhibition Centre
Shchusev Museum of Architecture
Sobolevarchive and Galina Metelichenko
The State Russian Museum
The State Tretyakov Gallery
Tver Regional Art Gallery
Udmurt Republican Museum of Fine Arts
Yuri Gagarin Memorial Museum Reserve

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