Russians Rockin' the Art World; Free from the Communist Confines of the Former Soviet Union and No Longer Isolated from the World's Ever-Growing, Ever-Evolving Arts Scene, Artists in Russia Are Capturing the Art World's Attention and Imagination

By Callaghan, Klint | Art Business News, July 2005 | Go to article overview

Russians Rockin' the Art World; Free from the Communist Confines of the Former Soviet Union and No Longer Isolated from the World's Ever-Growing, Ever-Evolving Arts Scene, Artists in Russia Are Capturing the Art World's Attention and Imagination


Callaghan, Klint, Art Business News


Russian art is taking its rightful place in the world art. The quickly changing political and economic landscape of the former Soviet Union nations has opened scores of new opportunities for artists born and living in Russia.

"Due to the political isolation of the Soviet Union during the Cold War years, the world outside Russia is just beginning to discover the quality of the art created in the country during this time period" says Bradford Shinkle IV, president and director of The Museum of Russian Art, which opened in May in Minneapolis (See pg. 20, "Museum of Russian Art Now Open"). The museum is dedi

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art created during the Soviet era.

Artists from the former Soviet Union are experiencing unprecedented success with art publishers, galleries, auction houses, and even museums. According to industry experts, dealers who are serious about offering high-quality art to collectors should embrace the new Russian art movement.

A Unique History

The history of the former Soviet Union and its complex evolution into the emerging democracy of today is part of the complexity that makes some of the most well-known Russian art so distinctive. But it is also the expressive, creative spirits of Russian artists who broke the strict Communist mode that resulted in a wealth of unique works as well. The world today is happily rediscovering both the visual artists that created under this rigid Communist system and those who were influenced to shun its message and create their own personal visions.

Between the end of the Russian Civil War in 1922 and the formal dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, it was the policy of the Soviet government to discourage all, but officially sanctioned, contact between Russian citizens and all foreign governments or their citizens. According to the Museum of Russian Art, the Communist Party proclaimed that Socialist Realism would be the only officially approved style of painting promoted within the Soviet Union. These two forces combined to create an environment of cultural isolation in which Russian painting evolved over three generations without significant international involvement.

Dedicated Museum Opens

Today, the popularity and uniqueness of Russian art has resulted in the emergence of an entire museum devoted to the topic. The Museum of Russian Art opened its doors in May to great fanfare. Media outlets from around the world and art lovers from all walks of life have flocked to the museum to experience its debut.

The institution's mission is to create and preserve extraordinary examples of Russian 20th-century Realist painting in order to preserve a visual record of the artistic achievements of Soviet-era artists. Since its inception in 2002, when it was housed in a temporary location until the current building was completed, the museum has mounted six exhibitions that have attracted more than 15,000 visitors.

The first exhibition at its brand-new home is "In the Russian Tradition: A Historic Collection of 20th-Century Russian Paintings." The show is a historic collection of works that chronicle more than 100 years of Russian fife and runs through July 31. The body of work includes portraits, landscapes and genre paintings that exemplify the various periods of Russian Realist art. The paintings on display were created by 46 artists from the former U.S.S.R., who are now earning respect in the marketplace.

Yet another testimonial of the popularity of Russian art is evidenced by recent record sales of Russian art at Sotheby's. On April 21, Sotheby's New York posted the highest total sale ever for a collection of Russian art. A single lot of Russian fine art and applied works of art was sold at more than double its pre-sale estimate, racking up a total of $35,167,720.

Sotheby's experts Sonya Bekkerman and Gerard Hill explain, "This venture of combining sales of paintings and works of art, and developing the Russian market in New York, shows the overall strength and widespread international demand for great Russian works of art. …

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