Vkhutemas legacy. British Foundation courses and their link to educational avant-garde practices of the first part of the 20th century

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This online discussion is part of the online public programme of the exhibition “Foundations: 100 years after Vkhutemas” organized in the blip blip blip and U contemporary space at Winzavod.

2020 celebrates the centenary of Vkhutemas. Two weeks ago opened an exhibition “Vkhutemas 100. The school of avant-garde” at the Museum of Moscow. The exhibition describes the role of Higher Art and Technical Studios (“Vkhutemas” as a Russian acronym) as a founder of modern art, design, architecture, textile and polygraph Universities. The exhibition includes art, graphic, sculpture, architect projects, porcelain, textile, furniture, pieces of art and graphic design created by Higher Art students, reflecting art experiments of the avant-garde period.

Arguably, one of the legacies of Vkhutemas as a radical and experimental art school has been the development of Foundation courses in the UK. During the 1920’s Vkhutemas and Bauhaus exchanged ideas and staff and the preliminary course, which first year students were required to complete, was seen as a vital part of the new teaching method they developed.

Foundation courses in Britain grew out of the ‘Basic Course’ developed by Harry Thubron at Leeds College of Art and Victor Pasmore and Richard Hamilton at Kings College, Newcastle. From these developments, a new introductory course for art, design and architecture emerged that was directly influenced by Bauhaus, and more indirectly by VKhUTEMAS. Foundation was quickly adopted by art schools across Britain as the essential first year undertaken by all students before they progressed to specialist undergraduate programmes.

Participants will share their memories and experiences of the Foundation courses that they have studied and taught at, talk about how Foundation grew out of the Basic Course at Leeds and Newcastle and prior to this the Bauhaus and Vkhutemas and also discuss the hypothesis that the core of the British art and design education links directly to Vkhutemas.


Geoffrey Teasdale — British Artist, former BA Fine Art Course leader and the Head of Research at Leeds College of Art. Geoff Teasdale was a student at Leeds College of Art between 1960 and 1964, initially on the Basic Course which later became the Foundation course. He studied under Harry Thubron who established the Basic Course in 1957.

Sean Kaye — British curator and artist, course leader for Foundation Art & Design course at BHSAD. Sean Kaye taught on the Foundation course at Leeds College of Art for 23 years from 1994 until 2017 and was Course Leader from 2012 - 2017.

Doug Bowen – British artist and communication design pathway leader on Foundation Art & Design course at BHSAD. Doug Bowen did the Foundation course at Leeds College of Art in 2010 and then went on to study at Leeds Beckett University.

Daria Sorokina — art historian, educator and tour guide, works at the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation. One of the co-curators of the exhibition “VKHUTEMAS 100. The school of Avant-garde”.

Alyona Sokolnikova — an independent curator, researcher and lecturer in design history, founder of ‘Design in details’ project. One of the co-curators of the exhibition “VKHUTEMAS 100. The school of Avant-garde”.

Ksenia Efimova — ex student of BHSAD Foundation Art & Design programme.

Moderator: Mikhail Levin — director of Moscow School of Contemporary Art.

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July 2022
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