Art Roundup – April 2015

Happy All Fools’ Day, everyone.

Alexander Batykov

You may have seen that Google Maps has put the Pacman game at various locations on the map today. For example, check out the front lawn of the Taj Mahal. Are there similar Pacman games anywhere in Russia?

  1. In Tashkent’s House of Photography, an exhibition of the works of the graphic artist and portraitist Alexander Batykov (1939- ) started on 26 March 2015.
  2. In Paris, the Oneiro gallery holds an exhibition of the Kazakh artist Anna Sand. It runs till June 2015.
  3. Just like the Guggenheim, the State Museum of St Petersburg is opening overseas branches – one in Malaga, Spain, opened a few days ago.
  4. The Museum of Russian Art in Minneapolis has an exhibition of Romance in Soviet Art, running April 4 – September 30, 2015.
  5. Oh, and Tate Modern in London has a massive exhibition on Sonia Delaunay starting April 15. Did I mention this before? Whatevs… Huzzah!

Art Roundup – March 2015

Yuristanbek Shygaev.

Yuristanbek Shigayev.

Heads up y’all. Sonia Delaunay at the Tate Modern from April to August 2015! Nothing like a bit of avant-garde to set the pulse racing.

Russian art in the aftermath of the Second World War at London‘s Saatchi Gallery. This runs from March 13 – April 6, 2015.

Contemporary Kazakh art is brought to a European audience at Strasbourg’s Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. This runs through March 8 – blink and you’ll miss it.

More Central Asian contemporary art titled Silk Route of Central Asia at Studio 65a in London. Running till March 7, 2015, there are works by Kyrgyz, Belarusian, Uzbek and Kazakh artists, e.g. Yuristanbek Shigayev on the right.

Rather London-centric this time, and I’ll really have to make an effort to go see that last one – it’s a bit out of the way. Still, hope dwells eternal, etc.

Have a good March, folks.

Art Roundup – February 2015

Man, the months sure do speed by. This month begins with the tragic news of the conflagration at a huge library in Moscow that destroyed well nigh on a million documents. It boggles the mind that even in the 21st century with every manner of fire-proofing available, it is still possible to lose treasures at such staggering rates.


Patrol, by Nikolai Roerich. (1905).

Meanwhile, in London’s Whitechapel Art Gallery there continues an exhibition on Geometric Abstraction, which traces the story of abstract art following Malevich’s black quadrilateral: Adventures of the Black Square continues till April 6, 2015, and features not only Russian abstractionists but also works from Latin America and Iran, among others. I’ll be sure to nip over to this one – it’s not far from my workplace.

Over in New York, there is an exploration of views on the Russian avant-garde by the new Left, contemporary artists left cold by the increasingly conservative and nationalistic official culture. At The James Gallery is Specters of Communism: Contemporary Russian Art, running from February 7 to March 28, 2015.

In honour of the centenary of the birth of the great collector George Costakis, the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow has organised Georgy Costakis: Departure from the USSR, exhibiting choice selections of works he donated to the gallery when he emigrated in 1977. You only have a week to savour this special exhibit – it ends February 8, 2015 – but as the art works are in the Tretyakov anyway, you probably won’t miss much even if you didn’t go.

And to bring up the rear, the Samara Art Museum in Kuybyshev has an exhibition of Nikolai Roerich‘s work, running till February 23, 2015.

Encyclopedia of the Russian Avant Garde 3

Q: Besides Malevich, who else has appeared for the first time in the pages of your publication?

A: We have examples of graphic artists hitherto unknown. About 10 to 15 works by unknown artists. Anna Zherebtsova, for example. Who here knows about Anna Zherebtsova? She was a Russian artist who lived in Paris. We only had a short biography, which I had dug up somewhere, and a single painting – and we published them.

Q: Ideally, each work must undergo a thorough examination for inclusion in this publication. Nevertheless, it is technically difficult to do so. Would you say you are responsible for every illustration published here? I ask you this question not as an art expert, but rather as a publisher, to whom in fact can be sent all sorts of pictures.

A: Indeed I should bear responsibility, and I have to say that I do bear it, although I cannot guarantee all 100%  of the material. This is because I received several items from authors in Ukraine, Belarus, and regional museums. Some articles I haven’t even seen in real life – I’ve only come across reproductions. And I hope that everything sent to me from museums is authentic. If not, is it possible to trust anybody? After all, if a museum sends you a slide, it means there is a guarantee, that is you can go to the museum and see the original. Rakitin and I regularly held meetings to decide which items to include and which not. And when our opinions coincided, which happened most of the time, we would agree to publish. If we had arguments, we wouldn’t.

Q: There are quite a lot of stories about suspicious works from the avant-garde. Is this is a real opportunity in the fight against counterfeiting?

A: To be honest, I don’t see any opportunity, and there are lots and lots of such stories. The most prominent event – Goncharova’s story, when in 2010 and 2011, there came out two books. The first was a monumental monograph Goncharova by the English art-historian Anthony Parton, a well-respected professor. I counted 70 suspicious works in it. I won’t say that these are counterfeits, but they are suspicious because until then they had not appeared anywhere. I can understand finding one or two pieces, as I did with Malevich, but 70? That’s suspicious. The following year, a catalog-raisonné of Goncharova came out in France – of all her works accomplished in Russia. There we counted 400 works which had suddenly appeared; nobody knew about these before and now there they were. How can one fight this? We conducted several interviews with the Tretyakov Gallery, discussed with journalists together with the famous collector [Pyotr] Aven. He collects Goncharova, and it was painful for him to see all this. The Tretyakovka got ready to write to the publisher that they had placed pictures from the Tretyakov along with suspicious works. This is the only way to fight, but to say for sure that these works were fakes, we can’t do that, we haven’t seen them. To do this, you need to examine each picture, conduct chemical tests, X-ray analyses. Who is going to do this? And will they be given the works to examine? No, of course, never.

Q: In your view, how do auction houses function as filters?

A: To a very small extent. Auction houses always state that they are not responsible for the work. This is their main principle. Of course, when a Goncharova is under the hammer, they take the opinion of experts, but there are also different experts. If the expertise is provided by the one who produced the catalogue, then the Goncharova would always be in order. But 400 works! This catalogue achieved the absurd. Goncharova has a Futuristic painting from 1913 – Cyclist – in which a cyclist pedals along a street. In a Futuristic manner, she depicted many legs, conveying in this way a sense of motion. All this is against a background of shops with signs Hats, Silk, and so on. This is very characteristic of her, and she had just one such work. In the catalogue-raisonné, there appears a cyclist who rides in the opposite direction, also against a background of shops, then a motorcyclist who travels first in one direction, then in the other, and then some other fellow on a scooter. Also against a backdrop of shops. And all these are Goncharova, you understand? Surprisingly, the catalogue, which should contain information about the origin of the works, exhibitions, previous owners, contains no such thing. It says ‘private collection’, and that’s it. But as far as I know, these were stopped, the works don’t appear at auctions, because there was a scandal, and a scandal always appears to work as a filter.

Cyclist, by Natalia Goncharova. (1913).

[Translated loosely from Tatyana Yershova, «Мы вытащили имена, о которых все забыли»: Как искусство русского авангарда собрали в энциклопедию., Nov 28, 2013.]

Further reading:

  1. Sylvia Hochfield, “Protecting Goncharova’s Legacy“, ARTNews, January 7, 2011.
  2. Dr. Anthony Parton’s Response to the Tretiakov Gallery, June 2011.

Art Roundup – January 2015

Happy new year, folks. What does 2015 offer for the aficionado of art from the erstwhile Russian and Soviet empires?

a) Well, the Melnikov house in Moscow has been opened to the public. Tickets sold out for the first opening in a matter of days, but the next batch of tickets will be released on 12 January 2015 at the Schusev State Museum of Architecture for those wanting to see the experimental house in February and March. As with all these things, you snooze, you lose.

b) You can grab a set of short courses on Russian art at the Watts gallery, Guildford, England, starting 12 January 2015.

c) The Louvre in Paris is said to open a gallery dedicated to Russian art in 2015. I could only find a press release from a few years ago, so do keep a lookout.

d) Oh, wow, wow, wow. The Kunstforum in Vienna will hold a tremendously exciting exhibition titled Love in Times of Revolution, featuring artistic couples of the avant-garde. It starts in October 2015 – damn, that’s a long wait.

Have an excellent 2015!

Art Roundup – December 2014

Nearly the end of the year, folks, and time for yet another roundup of Russian and related art.

  1. In the Museum of Russian Icons, Moscow, there is an exhibition of the works of priestly artist and missionary Alexander Men’. It runs till December 16.
  2. At the Yasnaya Polyana Museum-estate of Leo Tolstoy is an exhibition “The Unknown Mashkov“, which runs till December 9.
  3. In Beijing’s Chinese Academy of Oil Painting is an exhibition of the works from the Melnikov School in the Repin Academy of Fine Arts. Titled “The Distant Transparent“, this continues till December 15.
  4. Barcelona’s La Pedrera hosts an exhibition of the constructivist Lazar (El) Lissitzky. Titled “El Lissitzky. The Experience of Totality“, it ends Jan 18, 2015.
  5. Till December 7 at the Museum of Russian Art, Jersey City, NJ, is an exhibition of the Ukrainian circus artiste and artist Irene Koval.
  6. If you are interested in contemporary works of art from Central Asia, a good place to see what’s happening is the ENE Central Asian Art site. Ene means ‘mother’ in Turkmen and it is a Singapore-based organisation. Check out their gallery here.
  7. And there is an exhibition of Armenian dolls in Yerevan – traditional or French-inspired or Soviet-approved – you can find quite a collection. At the Yerevan Historical Museum, this runs to the end of the year.
  8. Georgian art flowered in the 1950s after the death of Stalin, and the works of Kalandadze, Nizharadze, Bandzeladze, Tsutskiridze and others can be seen at the Georgian National Museum‘s exhibition “Post-Stalin Liberalisation in Georgian Painting“, running in Tbilisi.
  9. If we do Armenian and Georgian, then surely we must do Azerbaijani as well – equal favour to these historic rivals, I say! Baku’s Museum of Modern Art has an exhibition titled “Stone”, featuring the sculptures of the Azerbaijani artist Huseyn Hagverdi.

And that’s it for the roundups of the year!

Still A Gallery Tour

Part 2 of paintings displayed at the St Petersburg Gallery, London, in their Russian portraiture exhibition.

Nudes (two-sided painting), by David Shterenberg. (1907-09).

Portrait of Igor Stravinsky, by Mikhail Larionov. (1915).

Portrait of S.A. Lobatchev, by Aristarkh Lentulov. (1913).

Nude female models, by Ilya Mashkov. (1908).

Two ladies, by Natalia Goncharova. (1907).

Woman with head bandage, by Alexej Jawlensky. (1909).

A Gallery Tour, Continued Continued

This is part 1 of an exhibition of Russian portraiture at the St. Petersburg Gallery, Cork Street, London.

Portrait of Pavel I, by Stepan Shchukin. (1797).

Sportswoman, by Vladimir Lebedev. (1933).

Lady with a fan and a newspaper, by Marie Vassilieff. (1910-12)

Self portrait with a cigarette, by Boris Grigoriev. (1916).

Baseball, by Alexander Deineka. (1935).

Laughter, by Filipp Maliavin. (1925).

Art Roundup – November 2014

Here we are deep into autumn and the Festival of Russia in the UK continues with some remarkable art on display. Only a month or two remain to catch whatever you can, so make those days count!

  1. You can do worse than to start at Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum where works of Pasternak (the author’s father), Benois, Somov and Bakst are available to see – in pullout drawers! The exhibition continues till Jan 11, 2015.
  2. If you hurry, you can catch Ukrainian art at the Saatchi gallery in London. 70 works by 38 contemporary artists are on display till November 3, 2014.
  3. Maryam Alakbarli, an Azerbaijani artist, has a personal exhibition at the Latvian National Museum of Art in Riga. Titled Night Music, it runs till November 9, 2014.
  4. A massive exhibition of art from the countries around the Baltic sea was held in Malmö in 1914, and was interrupted by the breakout of the Great War. Many Russian artworks remained in Sweden, and now some of that hoard is on display in Malmö Art Museum. Titled Baltic Reflections, it runs through spring 2015. You can see works by the likes of Pavel Kuznetsov, Nikolai Milioti, Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin and Valentin Serov as well as the Finn Akseli Gallen-Kallela.

Enjoy a fine November, folks.

A Gallery Tour, Continued.

So here we are among the works by artists originally displayed as part of the Jack (or Knave) of Diamonds exhibition in Moscow. The notes for each painting are taken from the exhibition cards of the Courtauld Gallery, London.

Mikhail Larionov’s (1881-1964) work below was displayed along with Still life in a Major Key at the Golden Fleece exhibition in Moscow in 1910. The Russian avant-garde artists had an abiding interest in the union of music and painting.

Still life in a minor key, by Mikhail Larionov. (1909).

Still life in a minor key, by Mikhail Larionov. (1909).

This painting was in the first Jack of Diamonds exhibition in Moscow from December 1910 – January 1911. “The nude female bathers form a scene similar to the works of the German Expressionist group the Bruecke (Bridge). Larionov’s use of red-orange and green, opposite colours on the colour wheel, define the figures with a jarring, clashing force.”

Bathers at sunset, by Mikhail Larionov. (1909).

Bathers at sunset, by Mikhail Larionov. (1909).

Aristarkh Lentulov (1882-1943) returned to Moscow and painted this based on his impressions gained from his Parisian life among the French avant-garde. “The artist uses a radical style to depict a very traditional subject, giving the roses a monumental quality through his layering of petals and bright blocks of colour.”

Flowers, by Aristarkh Lentulov. (1913).

Flowers, by Aristarkh Lentulov. (1913).

Natalia Goncharova’s (1881-1962) series of harvest paintings appeared between 1908 and 1911. She imagines a scene of cypresses and pink mountains, and the women’s outfits are unlike those she usually depicted Russian paintings in. Apelsinia was a name she invented for her solo exhibition in 1913 in Moscow. “The work reveals her taste for the exotic and interest in the art of Paul Gauguin.”

Apelsinia, by Natalia Goncharova. (1909).

Apelsinia, by Natalia Goncharova. (1909).

Vladimir Burliuk (1886-1917) was influenced by Cezanne and Cubism. “He often fractured his paintings into interlocking irregular segments, as if translating the principles of stained glass onto canvas.”

Landscape, by Vladimir Burliuk. (1913).

Landscape, by Vladimir Burliuk. (1913).

Olga Rozanova’s (1886-1918) typical style of simple and energetic brushwork and bright colours is exemplified in this work, executed three years before her death. The playing cards theme was one she returned to throughout her life, “emphasising that her art was based on card games often played in streets, bars and funfairs.”

Queen of Diamonds, by Olga Rozanova. (1915).

Queen of Diamonds, by Olga Rozanova. (1915).

Innokenti Annenesky’s play Thamyris, The Cither Player (Famira Kifared) was staged at the Moscow Chamber Theatre to Alexandra Exter’s design, which incorporated traditional art of her native Ukraine and referenced ancient Greek friezes. “With their graphic clarity and arrangement of bold colours, Exter’s designs contributed to a rhythmic framework shaping the performance itself.”

Greeks (Costume design), by Alexandra Exter. (1916).

Greeks (Costume design), by Alexandra Exter. (1916).

This was a design created by Goncharova for the astronomer Magus in a ballet (Liturgie) that never saw the light of day. Here she displays her interest in Russian folk art, peasant embroidery and icon painting. She was at the same time beginning her fruitful collaboration with Sergei Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes.

Magus (Costume design), by Natalia Goncharova. (1915).

Magus (Costume design), by Natalia Goncharova. (1915).