Press Room



14 September 2016 the Centre Pompidou unveiled an extraordinary donation of more than 250 works of Soviet and Russian contemporary art assembled through the outstanding efforts of the Vladimir Potanin Foundation, and presented to the Musée National d’Art Moderne thanks to the generosity of the Foundation and the collectors, artists and their families. Taking place in 2016 among a series of events paying tribute to the role of donors, the exhibition highlights once again their crucial importance to the development of cultural heritage institutions. 

Without pretending to be exhaustive, this ensemble of works by major artists offers a panorama of some forty years of contemporary art in the USSR and then in Russia, covering the most important movements.

The exhibition reveals (on until 27 March 2017) the wealth and diversity of an art created outside official structures. In the late 1950s, stimulated by the exhibitions of art from abroad made possible by Khrushchev’s thaw, non-conformist artists like Francisco Infante, Vladimir Yakovlev and Yuri Zlotnikov re-engaged with the aesthetic practices of the Russian modernist avant-gardes, source of inspiration for so many Western artists, and sought to invent their own formal language.

In 1962, Khrushchev’s closure of the non-conformist room at the famous Moscow Manege exhibition signalled the exclusion from official exhibition spaces, for many years again, of any art that departed from the official doctrine of Socialist Realism, whose adoption in the 1930s had brought an end to Modernist experiment in the USSR.

The 1970s then saw the emergence of two major movements, their boundaries somewhat loosely defined. Moscow Conceptualism achieved a certain ascendancy with the work of Ilya Kabakov, Viktor Pivovarov and Rimma and Valery Gerlovin, then followed by Andrei Monastyrsky and Dmitri Prigov. According a leading role to language and working at the intersection of poetry, performance and visual art, these artists proposed, in the Moscow of the Brezhnevite stagnation, a conceptual art that reflected the primacy of literature in Russian culture. The first Conceptualists were joined in the late 1970s by a second generation that included the Mukhomor group, Yuri Albert, Mikhail Roshal, Viktor Skersis and Vadim Zakharov.

Alongside Moscow Conceptualism, the Sots Art invented by Komar and Melamid played in Pop fashion on the codes of Soviet propaganda. Unlike the Pop artists – confronted by a superabundance of consumer goods – Alexander Kosolapov, Boris Orlov and Leonid Sokov sought to demythologise the ideological environment of Soviet society. A prolifically productive movement, a number of whose representatives would emigrate from the 1970s onward, Sots Art strongly influenced the aesthetics of the perestroika years, inspiring the work of numerous artists, among them Grisha Bruskin.

The advent of perestroika in the mid-1980s was marked by a real creative effervescence imbued by the underground culture sustained by a number of squats. An intoxicating sense of freedom informed the work of the young artists of the day: Sergei Anufriev, Andreï Filippov, Yuri Leiderman, Pavel Pepperstein and the Pertsy group (“The Peppers”) in Moscow and Sergei Bugaev-Afrika, Oleg Kotelnikov, Vladislav Mamyshev-Monroe and Timur Novikov in Leningrad.  

The end of the decade saw the legitimation of this art born on the margins. The mechanisms of a hitherto non-existent art market began to be set in place: in 1988, a first auction organised by Sotheby’s in Moscow gave a tangible value to unofficial art, and the boundary between official and unofficial abruptly disappeared. A new generation of artists appeared, among them AES+F, Dmitri Gutov, Valery Koshlyakov and Oleg Kulik. The 2000s saw contemporary art institutionalised and become an integral part of the national culture.  

An unprecedented initiative developed in collaboration with the Vladimir Potanin Foundation, the significance of this project extends beyond the exhibition itself. A forceful expression of the Musée National d’Art Moderne’s on-going commitment, the works assembled here have joined the permanent collection. There they complement the key holdings of such modern artists as Kandinsky, Larionov and Goncharova, as well as a number of major contemporary works acquired since the 1980s thanks to the enthusiasm and engagement of the Centre Pompidou’s curators. This new holding allows the Museum to communicate to a broad public, both in France and abroad, a history too often believed to have come to an end in the late 1920s. As part of a resolutely international collection of contemporary art, these works from the USSR and Russia have entered into dialogue with art from all over the world, opening new horizons for study and research.

This significant addition to the contemporary collections also include Paris-based Russian artistry s from the 1970s – such as Erik Bulatov, Igor Shelkovsky, Oscar Rabin, Eduard Steinberg and Vladimir Yankilevsky – granted the recognition they deserve.

The Musée National d’Art Moderne would like to extend its very warmest thanks to the Vladimir Potanin Foundation, with whom it shares the goal of promoting access to culture and the dissemination of knowledge. The Centre Pompidou hopes that the cooperation established in the context of this project marks the beginning of a lasting friendship. It also wishes to pay exceptional tribute to all the donors, and notably to Ekaterina and Vladimir Semenikhin and the Tsukanov Family Foundation, who have demonstrated in exemplary fashion the virtues of collective effort in the championing of artists and their works. The organisers of the project, finally, would like to thank the staff of the Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow, for their great assistance in making it a reality. 

The exhibition of these new acquisitions forms part of the programme of the Franco-Russian Year of Cultural Tourism, and is be accompanied by a series of talks and screenings running from September 2016 to January 2017.  

Curator (Russia): Olga Sviblova,  Director, Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow

Curator (France): Nicolas Liucci-Goutnikov, Curator, Musée national d’art moderne.



Contributing to the Centre Pompidou Collection is a symbolic gesture encouraging the integration of contemporary Russian Art into the world culture. Back in the time, the donation of the Black Square by Malevich to the State Hermitage was a similarly symbolic step, which was followed by a number of further donations to the Museum’s fund. Culture is the best way to tell people about Russia, especially so, as we really have a lot to show. The previous experience of major international cultural projects (When Russia Spoke French… in Paris and RUSSIA! in New York) has proved that Russian Art provokes a huge interest worldwide. And it is a special pleasure that we managed to form a group of likely minded people – patrons of art and artists – who joined our initiative.


Our joint project with the Centre Pompidou follows and continues the long-lasting efforts and activities of the Foundation, aimed at fostering cultural links, promoting intellectual dialogue and creative exchange of professionals from different countries. A major goal of our international programs is to strengthen a new image of Russia, the image that is free of outdated clichés and stereotypes. We believe that this new long-term project, implemented together with our French partner and involving a large-scale public program will also encourage this aim.


Due to its scope, this donation represents a milestone in the development of the collection of the Centre Pompidou. In a very unique way, it completes the extraordinary selection of Russian and Soviet artworks gathered in the Musée National d’Art Moderne. This donation reminds us that, even at the most tormenting times in Russian history, art never ceased to transform.


This outstanding donation is a powerfully symbolic event. It brings together a good number of artists whose works testify to the extraordinary developments in Soviet and Russian art over the last fifty years. It is exemplary in its generosity and in the sympathetic collaboration with the Museum of all those involved, which has surely made a fundamental contribution to the strength of our collection.