CINEMA : State of the art

Culture clash gets aired 50 years on

As we approach the end of the 50th anniversary of the 1945 armistice, it might seem that we have had our fill of commemorative events. One aspect which has been largely neglected, however, is the cultural conflict which was at times quite as bitterly contested as the war itself. This omission is now rectified in "Art & Power", an important exhibition at the Hayward Gallery which examines art under the Fascist and Communist regimes from 1930 to 1945.

Moving from the contrasting national pavilions of the 1937 Paris International Exhibition through the art produced in the three key cities of Rome, Moscow and Berlin, the show reveals how state control of a nation's culture was a central part of the totalitarian ideal, and examines the growing artistic dichotomy between the official and the underground.

Under the ingenious artistic direction of Pink Floyd's celebrated set- designer Mark Fisher, the Hayward is transformed to present Stalin's vision of a remodelled Moscow and to give an idea of how a rebuilt Berlin would have appeared had Hitler been victorious. The ersatz classicism promoted by the four dictators - Hitler, Mussolini, Franco and Stalin - makes a profound contrast to the liberated expressionism of so-called "degenerate" artists, including Picasso, Dali, Beckman and Nolde.

We have had all the official parades and services, but here, finally, is a very tangible reason to give thanks both for the defeat of Fascism 50 years ago and for the more recent overthrow of the Communist republics. Spend half an hour in here and you can be sure that even the post-Thatcherite world outside will seem a brighter place.

IAIN GALE

Hayward Gallery, South Bank, London SEI (0171-261 0127), 26 Oct to 21 Jan 1996

Right: detail from Max Beckmann's 'Carneval', 1943, oil on canvas

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