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.
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 canvasReuse content