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Costakis Collection

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Date: 1950s-1977

Artists in the collection: Vasily Kandinsky, Ivan Kliun, Dmitri Krasnopevtsev, Kazimir Malevich, Lyubov Popova, Ivan Puni, Aleksandr Rodchenko, Olga Rozanova, Anatoly Zverev, among many others

Location: Costakis apartment, Prospekt Vernadskogo, Moscow

George Costakis (Georgii Dionisovich Kostaki, 1912-1990) began collecting Russian avant-garde art in 1946, when he discovered three paintings by Olga Rozanova in a Moscow studio, and was bitten by the collecting bug. He soon added 15th-17th century Russian icons and the work of young “nonconformist” artists, like Anatoly Zverev and Dmitri Krasnopevtsev, to his roster. Employed at the Canadian embassy as an administrative clerk, Costakis hunted for lost works by such artists as Vasily Kandinsky, Kazimir Malevich, Lyubov Popova, Aleksandr Rodchenko, Ivan Puni, and Ivan Kliun anywhere he could find them, among remaining relatives and tucked away in private rooms and studios around the Soviet Union. At a time when modernist art was hidden from view in the storerooms of Soviet museums, Costakis’s private collection, which he displayed on the walls of his home, became Moscow’s unofficial museum of modern art and a meeting place for international art collectors and art lovers visiting the capital. Regular guests to Costakis’s apartment included nonconformist artists Anatoly Zverev (1931-1986), Oskar Rabin (b. 1928), Dmitri Krasnopevtsev (1924-1995), Dmitri Plavinsky (1937-2012), Vladimir Veisberg (1924-1985), and many others. Costakis’s friendship with the younger artists gave them access to the avant-garde legacy, to which many of their own works aspired and responded. Costakis left the Soviet Union for Greece in 1977, leaving a large portion of his collection as a gift to the Russian people to reside at the State Tretyakov Gallery.

Document: George COSTAKIS – excerpt from memoirs (1993)


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Exhibitions in the apartment of Judita and Vytautas Šerys

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Date: 1967–75

Participants: Valentinas Antanavičius (1936), Linas Katinas (1941), Vincas Kisarauskas (1934-1988), Vytautas Šerys (1931-2006), Kazimiera (Kazė) Zimblytė (1933-1999), Vladislovas Žilius (1939), and others

Organizers: Judita and Vytautas Šerys

Location: The apartment of Judita and Vytautas Šerys, Vilnius

Exhibitions were held at the home of the museum worker Judita Šerienė and the artist Vytautas Šerys between 1967 and 1975. This was the first private, unofficial, and unsanctioned exhibition space in Soviet Lithuania. Šerienė worked in the exhibition department of the Art Exhibition Hall[1] at the time, and had access to avant-garde works that were inconsistent with the dominant communist ideology and consequently were not included in official exhibitions. These works were exhibited in solo and group exhibitions organized at the home of Šerys, which were open to a circle of like-minded visitors who exchanged information about unofficial cultural phenomena by word of mouth. The exhibitions at the Šerys home featured works by Valentinas Antanavičius, Linas Katinas, Vincas Kisarauskas, Vytautas Šerys, Kazimiera (Kazė) Zimblytė, Vladislovas Žilius, and others, which were stylistically close to the language of Abstract, Op, and Pop art, or explored other modern ideas and forms of expression. In addition to the exhibitions, the Šerys home hosted improvised poetry readings. It attracted students and intellectuals of the time—artists, writers, and theater people.


[1] The Art Exhibition Hall, opened in 1967, was the most modern and important space for rotating exhibitions in Lithuania. In 1992 it was renamed the Contemporary Art Centre.


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“Strike” by La Galerie des Locataires

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Date: 1976

Concept by: Ida Biard & La Galerie des Locataires

Can an exhibition take the form of a postcard? For Ida Biard and La Galerie des Locataires (Tenants’ Gallery) postal communication was crucial for establishing networks among artists, critics and curators from Budapest to Canada. Founded in 1972 in the rented Paris apartment of the Zagreb art historian and critic Ida Biard, La Galerie des Locataires (Tenants’ Gallery) was a self-organized curatorial project dedicated to “communicating” the works of artists who, in line with the credo of the new, dematerialized art, privileged “ethics over aesthetics.”1 Artists from all over the world were invited to send their works by mail, to be exhibited in the window of Biard’s apartment, or realized, according to artists’ instructions, in public spaces of different cities, and in the framework of various exhibitions and projects.

La Galerie kept close ties with the Yugoslav art scene, especially through Biard’s collaboration with artist Goran Trbuljak on the French Window project, as well as different programs realized in collaboration with the Student Center galleries of Zagreb and Belgrade. At the same time, based in Paris, Biard collaborated with artists such as Daniel Buren, Annette Messager, Christian Boltanski, and Sarkis, who were to become among the most well-known protagonists of the international art scene.

La Galerie held a strong anti-commercial and anti-establishment stance, and believed in the potential of conceptual art to overcome the material and ideological confines of traditional, bourgeois, object-based art. However, by the mid-1970s, it became clear that the old patterns were only being re-affirmed, with conceptual artists becoming part of the mainstream institutional and commercial art scene. In order to protest this development, Ida Biard sent a card to all the artists she had collaborated with, specifically those in France, declaring a strike and announcing that La Galerie des Locataires would no longer “communicate the so-called works of art” in order to express its  “disagreement with the conduct of artists/so-called dissenters and the avant-garde within the current system of the art market.” 2 Inverting the logic according to which artists are expected to rebel against the system, while curators and critics secure their positions within its hierarchies, here it is the curator/gallerist who protests against the behavior of artists being integrated into the commodity system and betraying the ‘essence’ of conceptual art and their own earlier practice. 3

This gesture of a curator’s strike, of a refusal to exhibit art if that implies perpetuating the status quo, was also an experiment with the form of curatorial communication — the exhibition. Strike could be interpreted as a mail-exhibition, a translation of artists’ usage of post and the emerging “genre” of mail art. Crucial for establishing and maintaining networks, postal communication here served to declare a dissolution of the network, as an expression of protest and, implicitly, a declaration of the failure of “dematerialized” art to radically transform the art system.

Guide for the chronology (Ivana Bago: Something to think about: values and valeurs of visibility in Zagreb from 1961 to 1986)


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First APTART Exhibition

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Dates: October – November 1982

Participants: Nikita Alekseev (b. 1953), TOTART – Natalia Abalakova (b. 1941) and Anatoly Zhigalov (b. 1941); SZ group – Vadim Zakharov (b. 1959) and Victor Skersis (b. 1956); Mukhomor group –  Sven Gundlakh (b. 1959), Konstantin Zvezdochetov (b. 1958), Aleksei Kamensky, Vladimir Mironenko (b. 1959), and Sergei Mironenko (b. 1959); Sergei Anufriev (b. 1964), Andrei Monastyrski (b. 1949), Nikolai Panitkov (b. 1952)

Organized by: Nikita Alekseev along with other unofficial Moscow artists

Location: Private apartment of Nikita Alekseev, Moscow

In the fall of 1982, the “APTART” exhibition was held in the apartment of artist and former member of Collective Actions Nikita Alekseev. The show included work by a younger generation of artist collectives who had recently appeared on the scene like the Mukhomor (Toadstool) group and SZ, as well as several established Moscow-based Conceptual artists such as husband-wife collaborators Natalia Abalakova and Anatoly Zhigalov (TOTART), Alekseev, and fellow Collective Actions members Andrei Monastyrski and Nikolai Panitkov. Visitors to the show were both friends and members of the public who had heard about the exhibition through word-of-mouth. Alekseev granted access to the apartment “gallery” anytime that he was home. For the two-week exhibition run, works were hung on every available space in the apartment, filling each room to create a cacophonous environment where viewers could interact with the artwork and each other. Both Zhigalov (in his artist’s statement) and Gundlakh (in his account of the event for A-Ya, the Paris-based journal on Russian contemporary art) described “APTART” as an attempt to break free from the habits and conventions that had set in among the artists of the Moscow Conceptualist circle during the 1970s, and gave the first indication of the colorful new art style that would come to be called the New-Wave in the 1980s.

Documents:

Sven Gundlakh, “APTART (Pictures from an Exhibition),” exhibition writeup (1982)

Anatoly Zhigalov, “Analysis – Action,” artist’s text (1982)


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