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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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Art in non-art institutions

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Date: Since 1962

In the period the art historian Elona Lubytė termed ‘silent modernism’ (1962–1982), unofficial exhibitions were held not only in artists’ studios or residences, but also in various non-art institutions that were home to patrons of modern art and exhibition-initiators. Among the most significant institutions were the club of the LSSR (Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic) Writers’ Union, the LSSR State Conservatory, the Urban Planning Institute, the Vaga publishing house (all based in Vilnius), and the Panevėžys Drama Theater, led by the acclaimed director Juozas Miltinis, who cultivated avant-garde ideas in his stage productions. According to contemporaries, the control of the art events that took place inside these institutions was less strict, yet these exhibitions were not advertised by official posters or covered by the press; in other words, they did not receive public attention or official evaluation. Artists’ works were exhibited in lobbies, hallways, offices, and sports and concert halls. Sometimes the unusual exhibition spaces spawned alternative approaches to displaying works of art.


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László Beke, Miklós Erdély, György Jovánovics, Péter Legéndy, János Major, Gyula Pauer, and Tamás Szentjóby – exhibition and actions

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Date: 24 June 1973

Participants: László Beke (1944), Miklós Erdély (1928-1986), György Jovánovics(1939), Péter Legéndy (1948), János Major (1936-2008), Gyula Pauer (1941), Tamás Szentjóby (1944)

Location: Chapel Studio of György Galántai, Balatonboglár

This exhibition – presented two months before the Chapel Studio was occupied and closed by the police – did not have any title and was completed spontaneously with works and actions during two weeks. The works exhibited were used as props for theatrical performances in the next few weeks.

Documents:

Miklós Erdély: What is avantgardism? (1973)

Tamás St. Auby – interview (1998)

György Jovánovics – interview (1998)

Source: Törvénytelen avantgárd. Galántai György balatonboglári kápolnaműterme 1970–1973 [Illegal Avant-garde, the Balatonboglár Chapel Studio of György Galántai 1970–1973], eds. Júlia Klaniczay and Edit Sasvári  (Artpool–Balassi, Budapest, 2003): 150-5.


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Bulldozer and Izmailovsky Park – outdoor exhibitions

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Date: Bulldozer Show – 15 September 1974; Izmailovsky Park – 29 September 1974

Participants: Oskar Rabin, Evgeny Rukhin, Vladimir Nemukhin, Lydia Masterkova, Nadezhda Elskaya, Yuri Zharkikh, Aleksandr Rabin, Alexander Melamid, Vitaly Komar, Viktor Tupitsyn, and others

Organized by: Oskar Rabin and Aleksandr Glezer

Location: Bulldozer Exhibition – Profsoyuznaya Street and Ostrovityanova Street, Beliaevo, Moscow; Izmailovsky Park Exihibition – Izmailovsky Park, Moscow

The Bulldozer and Izmailovsky Park exhibitions were pivotal episodes in the history of unofficial Soviet art. A small group of artists, led by painter Oskar Rabin and poet and collector of underground art, Aleksandr Glezer, attempted to stage the First Fall Outdoor Exhibition of Paintings on an empty site on the outskirts of Moscow. Several participants were detained on the way to the show, and the rest were met by militia with dump trucks, bulldozers, and “volunteer workers” who announced that they were building a park on the site. The spectators–around 400 artists, local residents, as well as Western journalists and diplomats–were asked to leave, and the scene turned violent when the “workers” charged at the artists, knocking their works to the ground to be destroyed. Several foreign journalists were beaten; police arrested Oskar and Aleksandr Rabin, Rukhin, Elskaia, and Tupitsyn; and twelve spectators were taken for interrogations. While the Soviet press called the show a “provocation” intended to harbor anti-Soviet sentiment, front-page coverage in the foreign press highlighting the violence and objections from the US embassy in Moscow put pressure on the Moscow authorities to ease their stance. As a result, the Second Fall Outdoor Exhibition of Paintings was allowed to take place two weeks later on 29 September 1974 in Izmailovsky Park, for which the show takes its more common name. It lasted for four hours, was seen by hundreds of spectators, and was the first uninterrupted public display of unofficial art in the Soviet Union, albeit not without repercussions. Many of the original participants of the Bulldozer show were persecuted or exiled, and several died under mysterious circumstances. Exhibitions of unofficial art began to be mounted through the new Painting Section of the Graphic Arts Union, which was soon established as a means to bring nonconformist art under the management of the official art bureaucracy.

Document: Invitation to the Bulldozer Exhibition (1974)

 


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Exhibition of Works by Moscow Artists at DK VDNKh

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Date: 20–30 September 1975

Participants: A total of 122 Moscow artists

Location: DK VDNKh (Dom Kultury, Vystavka Dostizhenii Narodnogo Khoziaistva; Hall of Culture pavilion at the Exhibition of Achievements of the National Economy), Moscow

Organized by: The organizing group at various points in time included Aleksandr Rabin (b. 1951), Larisa Pyatnitskaya, Igor Sinyavin (b. 1933), Eduard Zelenin (1938–2002), Koryun Nahapetyan (1926–1999), Aleksandr Kurkin, Vitaly Komar (b. 1943), Alexander Melamid (b. 1945), Mikhail Odnoralov (b. 1944), Maksim Dubakh, Borukh (Boris Shteinberg, 1938-2003), Lev Bruni (1950–2011), Vyacheslav Koleichuk (b. 1941), Vitaly Linitsky (b. 1934), Yakov Levinshtein (b. 1923), E. Kovaikina, Tatiana Kolodzei (b. 1947), and Leonid Talochkin (1936–2002).

After the Bulldozer and Izmailovsky Park exhibitions that took place in the autumn of 1974, some unofficial artists were emboldened to seek more opportunities to show their work in public. Their efforts resulted in a series of significant exhibitions the following year that included an exhibition of painting at the Beekeeping Pavilion, DK VDNKh on February 19–22, 1975, by twenty Moscow-based artists. A two-part apartment exhibition series titled “Apartment Previews in Advance of the All-Union Exhibition” also took place at private addresses in the hope of convincing the Ministry of Culture to mount a union-wide exhibition. (First exhibition: March 29–April 5, 1975, eight apartments, 132 artists, 741 works; Second exhibition: April 23–27, 1975, six apartments, 163 artists, 726 works). Finally, the “Exhibition of Works by Moscow Artists” at DK VDNKh took place September 20–30, 1975. Each exhibition was not without difficulty. Local authorities used many tactics to intimidate artists and limit participation including the exclusion of artists not based in Moscow, threats to participants (i.e., Nadezhda Elskaia was threatened with the removal of her daughter; others with loss of work or living space; threat of psychiatric intervention), delays with the hanging of the show or difficulty installing the works, and obstacles created for the public audience members such as long queues, closed cafes and toilets. A total of 145 unofficial artists submitted artworks for the exhibition, but after much back-and-forth between the group of organizers and the administration, only 122 Moscow artists were allowed to participate. The exhibition at the DK VDNKh attracted huge crowds who were forced to wait in line for hours to gain entry. Two of the more controversial works exhibited were Hippie Flag by the group Volosy [Hair], and the action Hatch Eggs! by the collaborative trio of Mikhail Roshal (1956–2007), Victor Skersis (b. 1956), and Gennady Donskoi (b. 1956) who were later called the Nest. The latter work consisted of a pile of branches and leaves in the shape of a nest, two meters in diameter, and was installed directly on the floor of the exhibition hall. Viewers were invited to sit in the structure in order to “hatch eggs”; signs nearby stated: “Quiet! Experiment in progress!” According to Roshal, the Ministry of Culture had threatened to remove Hatch Eggs!, but the other exhibitors refused to help and it remained in place, becoming a place where people would sit, eat, drink, and socialize. Eventually, the work was destroyed when the authorities declared it a fire hazard and soaked it with a fire extinguisher.

See I. Alpatova, L. Talochkin, and N. Tamruchi, eds., “Drugoe iskusstvo”: Moskva, 19561988 (Moscow: Galart, 2005).


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On Kalektarnaya – exhibition

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Date: SeptemberNovember 1987

Participants: Aliaksej Zhdanau, Todar Kopsha, Artur Klinau, Andrej Pliasanau, Vital Razhkou

Organizer: Forma, the alternative artists collective

Location: Minskgramadzanproject Institute, Kalektarnaya street, Minsk

This exhibition introduced a non-conformist approach to space organization. It stirred up an official criticism resulted in several attempts to close down the show. A telegram asking for support was sent to Raisa Gorbacheva (the wife of the head of the USSR government). It read: “Dear Mrs. Raisa Gorbacheva! The first exhibition of young painters was opened in Minsk but the authorities are trying to shut it down. Please, protect our cultural endeavors!”

DocumentNataliya TATUR: Exhibition on Kalektarnaya, 4—Fragments From the Book of Remembrance (2004)

Source: Volha Archipava. Belarusian Avant-garde of the 1980s. ‘pARTisan’s Collection’ series. Minsk 2012. http://partisanmag.by/


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