Red Star Over Russia is in many ways an insight into the life of writer, photographer and graphic designer David King. His passion for Soviet visual history caused him to amass 250,000 objects - easily one of the world's largest collections of photography, art and graphics on this subject. This material became the fabric of King's life and home; a source ongoing fascination for him.
The collection began in 1970 when King was working as art editor of The Sunday Times Magazine. Sent to Russia to bring back images for a special feature on the revolutionary Leon Trotsky, King found that all record of this man had been obliterated. His initial search for Trotsky imagery soon expanded to encompass all Soviet visual culture; threads of one narrative weaving inseparably into the next. From the overthrow of the last Tsar and the revolutionary uprisings of 1917, through to the struggles of the Civil War and Stalin’s campaign of terror, King’s collection reveals how seismic political events led to the social transformation that inspired a wave of innovation in art and graphic design across the country.
Accompanied by photographs of where he lived, we hear some personal stories of how he gathered these objects:
King's partner, Valerie Wade, told us of his final days. Although comforted in the knowledge that he had secured a future for his work in Tate's collection, letting go of these precious items was hard. After a mild heart attack King discharged himself from hospital. 'I just want to sleep at home' he told Wade. For the last time, he rested amongst the handmade pine shelves and ordered scarlet cabinets which held the fruits of years of dedicated work. He died that night surrounded by his collection. He never had to see an empty shelf.
Photographed by Lucy Dawkins for Tate