Inventing Abstraction, 1910–1925 is on view through April 15, 2013 at The Museum of Modern Art. Find out more at


This sixteen foot wooden tower is a model Vladimir Tatlin made with a group of students in 1920. It was a proposition for a steel structure that would rise 1300 feet (higher than the Eiffel Tower) and straddle the Neva river in Petrograd. It was to house the Third Congress of Comintern, the international organization of Communist parties dedicated to promoting world revolution. Tatlin’s friend and advocate the art critic Nikolai Punin published a brochure explaining his intentions with this work. It described the artist’s desire to build four internal glass structures that would house various agencies of the Comintern and would revolve at different speed. The largest structure, a cylinder, at the bottom was to house its legislature, and would make one revolution per year. The pyramid, its executive, revolving once per month; the upper cylinder, its press bureau, revolving once per day; and the half-sphere at the top, its radio station, revolving once per hour. 

The monument was never realized, but the model was widely exhibited and is best known through photographs (including one reproduced here). In the early 1920s Tatlin’s Tower became an international symbol of revolutionary aspirations.   

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