The exhibition focused on Albanian socialist realism through painting, poster and drawings, and it offered a selection of artworks produced under the dictatorship that aimed to spread socialism’s main principles among the proletarian.
Curated by Artan Shabani, the exhibition entitled Constructing a Dream: Socialist Realism in Albanian Art brings to the attention of art lovers an important period of Albanian visual arts. It offers a selection of works from the years spent under dictatorship, which were dominated by a political attitude that aimed to propagate the founding principles of socialism among the working class. During this period in Albanian history, which lasted nearly four decades, socialist realism dominated the arts, literature, and almost every other aspect of cultural life. The state directed and controlled artists as well as artistic creativity, which resulted in the oppression of the art scene. The fantastic realism and dogmatic content found in the works of the period offer an opportunity for those who want to familiarize themselves with the art of this isolated period; they also shed light on the origins of socialist realism, the sources inspiring cultural creativity, and the role of socialist realism in the history of Albanian society.
The selected works by prominent artists of the period remain within the limits drawn by the regime and make reference to a glorified past (partisan warfare and resistance against occupation forces, and especially the defense of the motherland) or the “bright” future (building socialism, the transformation under the collectivization of villages, national industrialization, radical social change, etc.). The aim was to create the so-called “new person” in service of the proletarian revolution ideology.
What did “socialist realism” mean? The term was first used by literary newspapers in the spring of 1932 but was only officially recognized as a theoretical system at the Congress of the Union of Soviet Writers in 1934 (attended by Aleksei Maksimovich Peshkov, Maxim Gorky, Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin, Nikolai Ivanovich Bukharin, and Andrei Alexandrovich Zhdanov). The resolutions of this important congress stated four rules to be applied to literature and the arts: Socialist realist art and literature must belong to the proletariat and be clearly comprehensible, art must depict scenes from the people’s daily lives, it must be representational, and it must support the goals of the state and the party.