Museum of the Russian Icon

“The all-new Museum of the Russian Icon, that has just opened doors here in Moscow by the well-known businessman and art patron Mikhail Abramov, boasts a huge collection of Russian Orthodox art.

This was the beginning of a wonderful collection, which is held in very high regard by experts in ancient Russian art. Including Lev Livshits, who talked to our correspondent.

While in the Tretyakov Gallery you can find absolute masterpieces, here you get an idea of how big rivers are formed, figuratively speaking, when small rivulets come together building up to what we call Russian national art culture…”

link to full article at Voice of Russia

Moscow River School in the Moscow Times

The Moscow Times has done an excellent write-up on the Moscow River School’s current exhibition in Moscow. The organization of Realist painters often takes a backseat to more flashy and controversial groups in the Moscow art scene. Journalist Joy Neumeyer takes note, however, of the uniqueness of plein air painting, “where rustic landscape painting competes with newer forms of digital, urban-influenced art.”

The article only falls short in its failure to grasp just how unusual the Moscow River School’s approach and history are in 21st century art. There are not many centuries old traditions of “rustic landscape painting” competing with newer forms of “digital, urban influenced art.” The word “competition” represents a gross overestimation of the strength of academic traditions like Russian Realism. There is no Barbizon school still meeting in the countryside of modern France; there is no Ashcan School still struggling along in New York City. There is, however, against all the odds still a group of realist painters working in the Russian countryside who can trace their teachers and their teachers’ teachers back to the 19th century in a few long steps. What is more, the Academic Dacha where they meet today was founded by Ilya Repin, perhaps the most famous artist of the 19th century Realist school. I was there over the summer and it is not the bustling hive of activity we can see depicted in Repin’s At the Academic Dacha.It is still alive, however, and that makes the Moscow River School much more than “somewhat unique.”

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“A floor below the sprawling Soviet-themed exhibits at the State Museum of Contemporary History, a group of landscape painters is offering glimpses of a Russia seemingly untouched by the 20th century. With loose brushstrokes and brilliant colors, the Moscow River collective presents paintings that eschew cities’ steel and smoke for the soft light and open expanses of the countryside.

“Moscow is a chaotic city,” said artist Ilya Yatsenko, whose view of Moscow’s Pyatnitskaya Ulitsa is the exhibition’s sole urban scene. “Nature, on the other hand, is closer to a person.” ”

You can read the full article here.

“Moscow River” is on display through Feb. 20 at the State Central Museum of the Contemporary History of Russia, 21 Tverskaya Ulitsa.

Pyotr Konchalovsky at the Tretyakov Gallery

A new exhibition of the work of Pyotr Konchalovsky is on display at the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. Konchalovsky was a member of the Jack of Diamonds group, which began with a shocking exhibition in 1910. The Jack of Diamonds group also included renowned artists Natalia Gonchorova and Alexander Kuprin. It was the key organization in the Russian avant-garde of the early 20th century.

The exhibition, along with a conference on the influence of Paul Cezanne which was conducted in March, was organized by the Petr Konchalovsky Foundation. Here’s an excerpt from their brochure for the show:

“The exhibition will present the artist’s best paintings from the collections
of the Russian Museum and the Tretyakov Gallery, and also the most famous works from private collections. Moreover, paintings from the artist’s family-collection and other rare archival documents and personal items will be exhibited for the first time. This comprehensive gathering of material will recreate the unique atmosphere, in which Petr Konchalovsky’s paintings were made, and the directions of Russian fine art of the first half of the 20th century formed and transformed.”

The exhibition will run through November 14th. Link to exhibition website.

Vasili Nechitailo at TMORA

The Museum of Russian Art in Minneapolis, as a part of their 20th Century Russian Masters series, is showing the work of Soviet realist Vasili Nechitailo. Here’s an excerpt from an article by the Star-Tribune:

“Beautifully installed in spacious galleries, the show at first seems merely to celebrate the work and life of a man largely unknown outside his homeland. A much more compelling story emerges, however, thanks to Zavialova’s insightful labels about the hidden tragedies and suppressed conflicts in Russian life during the Soviet era.”

Like much Soviet Realism, Nechitailo’s idealized compositions of labor masked the often brutal reality of Soviet life, particularly in Stalin period. However, even for former soviet citizens who experienced this time firsthand like the museum’s curator Masha Zavialova, the work can be viewed outside of this context.

” ‘Before I just looked at the [Nechitailo] subjects and they were oppressive to me,’ she said. ‘Now, I look at the canvases and brushwork and find them very interesting and they’ve stopped being threatening. They’re just objects of history. Think of your own childhood. It’s completely gone and nowhere to be found. That’s something you understand only with years. It’s the nature of time. Now I love his work.’ ”

The full article from the Star-Tribune is definitely worth checking out. It’s rare in that it neither completely vilifies the Soviet artist who toes the party line, nor glosses over the complicity of much Soviet art in the oppression of the Soviet system.

The show will run through February 27. There is a small gallery of images from the show available on the exhibition website.

IZO Shuts Down

One of the best blogs on Russian culture has shut down indefinitely. It was the pet project of gallery owner, collector, art historian and author Matthew Bown whose work we posted on a few months ago. This farewell message appeared on June 9th:

“Dear readers, I’m afraid this will be the last edition of IZO for the foreseeable future. I have not the time to devote to the blog since reaching an agreement with Yale University Press to write a book on the relationship between ancient relics and contemporary art. The book will require all my spare computer time. I want to thank all IZO’s readers, regular and irregular, for dropping by, and especially of course the contributors, among whom the outstanding figure has been MK from DC (here and here). Thanks so much, MK. The IZO blog will remain open for the time being as a reference source. Matthew.”

The site is definitely still worth checking out.  The categories on the right are probably the best way to dig through it now that nothing is exactly current news. Link

MacDougall’s Diversifies

MacDougall’s auction house, which formerly dealt exclusively in Russian Art, has added an Old Masters and 19th century European art department.

Their website explains that,  “While Russian Art continues as a speciality, MacDougall’s will hold an auction of Old Masters and European Art in December 2010 and plans to develop this area as a growing part of the business, in part reflecting Russian interest in the area.”

Their first auction of European art, including work from the 16th through the 19th century, was held this past July.

Russian Artist Holds Workshop for Prisoners

“Russia’s People’s Artist Sergei Andriyaka will teach fifteen prisoners the first principles of watercolor painting during a video linkup on Wednesday, Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service’s (FSIN) press office said.

Andriyaka, 53, is a famous Russian watercolor painter. His works are devoted to Russia’s nature and provincial towns. Andriyaka also runs a watercolor school for children and adults.”

Full article at Ria Novosti

MacDougall’s Rise

Telegraph News has put out an interesting article about MacDougall’s auction house. Over the last six years they have become a force in the Russian art market, competing directly with the three major fine arts auction houses, Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and Bonham’s. Here’s an excerpt:

“For more than 200 years Bonhams, Christie’s and Sotheby’s have dominated the auction world, and still rule the roost in fine art. Certainly, there are dozens of small auction houses around the globe that make a living by carving out a niche not lucrative enough to interest the big three.

MacDougall’s, however, is among the few that has gone head-to-head in a highly lucrative category with the market leaders. It has not only profited by the burgeoning Russian art market over the past six years, but it has also revolutionised it.”

Link to full article

Kursk Art Exhibit

“My Little Village” – A P Osminkin

Mount Union College in Alliance Ohio is holding an exhibit and auction of Russian landscapes through March 4th. The school has been organizing events with Kursk State University in the city of Kursk in Western Russia since 1997. Since 2000, they have held three exhibitions of paintings by artists at Kursk State University. In 2006, they auctioned the exhibit to raise money for future collaboration between the schools, and they are holding another auction this year. Images of all 35 paintings chosen for the exhibition are online. They are landscapes of the Russian Realist school, and provide a small but satisfying glimpse of how the Russian landscape tradition persists in the 21st century. 

Click here to visit Mount Union’s webpage about the auction.