Unofficial russian art


‘The Museum of modern art in New York, the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, the museums of Grenoble, Tours and Laval, the Palace of Congress in Paris, the Chirico Gallery in Rome, Copenhagen, Berlin, Los Angeles, Florence, Amsterdam and Lugano…: this is a short list of all the cities were Russian nonconformist painters have exhibited their works. Had they tried in Russia, they would have only been allowed to exhibit in their own homes or in those of friends. All the attempts to exhibit unofficial works in Moscow, have always ended up in almost immediate closure: in 1967 the exhibition only lasted two hours, in 1969 forty-five minutes, in 1971 it was shut 15 minutes after its opening. In the autumn of 1974, there seemed to be an improvement: on the 15th of September, the painters were allowed to take their works to an open field, on the outskirts of Moscow, but the authorities were there waiting for them with bulldozers, hoses and KGB agents dressed up as builders. The exhibition was called off, some paintings were burnt, some others were damaged. Five painters were arrested. Surprised by the international reaction and pressure, the Soviet authorities were forced to organise the first free exhibition of unofficial painting, which was held at the Izmailovo Park, on 29th September 1974. Three months later, 50 nonconformist painters were granted authorisation to exhibit in Leningrad and, a few days earlier, the most famous painters in the West were allowed to exhibit their works in Moscow. Unfortunately, following the exhibition of 29th September, three painters were sent to mental asylums, two were suddenly conscripted into the army, and another five had the special privilege of being beaten by the police. Let us dwell briefly on what it is meant in Russia by the word “nonconformist”. The art of Soviet painters is intimately linked to very ancient traditions of religious painting and popular art. The avant-garde of the 1920s, namely Malevitch, Chagall, Kandinsky, Tatline, Popova, Gabo, Lissi-tzky, etc., deeply modified Western art and likewise influenced unofficial Soviet painters who, nowadays, form the centre of Russian artistic life. We would like the lover of Western art to look at the authentic values and at the quality of the works displayed, without constantly going back to their ‘illegal’ nature or to the ‘persecutions’ which, nevertheless, are part of the destiny of our country. In Russia, unofficial painting does not ask to be qualified as “avant-garde”. The situation is so peculiar that European criteria are rarely adequate for contemporary Russian art. Problems which are solved without difficulty in the Western world, become the object in Russia of a ” permanent issue”. The fantastic and the surreal of daily life in Russia represent the content of most pictures. And the fact that painters and designers find it so easy to express themselves, is more extraordinary the more painful the problems are. We appreciate that the Italian art lover will be able to take into account the distance which exists between two different artistic conceptions and that he will find within himself all the comprehension and warmth which are indispensable to approach Russian unofficial art. Alexandre Gleser’


23 Agosto 1980 - 31 Agosto 1980


Exhibitions Meeting Exhibitions