The Russia! Exhibition
The exhibition Russia! which opened at the Solomon R. Guggenheim museum on September 16, 2005 with the support of the Vladimir Potanin Foundation, has become the most impressive Russian art exposition in the history of the United States. The event featured over 275 masterpieces by Russian and foreign artists dated from the thirteen century to our days from collections of the State Hermitage Museum, the State Russian Museum, the State Tretyakov Gallery and the State Historical and Cultural Museum and Heritage Site Moscow Kremlin.
Mikhail Shwydkoi, the Head of the Federal Agency for Culture and Cinematography of the Russian Federation, spoke of the event: “the goal of the Russia! is nothing less than to reveal the creativity and worldview of a nation through eight hundred years of Russian masterpieces and more than two hundred years of art collecting. This exhibition paints a compelling visual portrait of a nation confronting the travails and triumphs of its history”.
Thomas Krens, the Director of the Solomon Guggenheim Foundation, recalls that the idea of the exhibition was born during his conversation with Mr. Shwydkoi, when both of them had realized that Russian art of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries remained virtually unknown outside Russia.
This is not by chance that the exhibition has been divided based on the following key periods in the history of Russian art:
- The Age of the Icon: 13th – 17th Centuries
- The 18th Century: the Age of Peter the Great and the Reign of Catherine the Great
- Golden Age or the Wanderers (Peredvizhniki) of the 19th Century
- Avant-garde of the Early 20th Century
- Socialist Realism of 1930 – 1960s
- Contemporary Art: 1980 to the present
Most of the masterworks presented at the exhibition either never or rarely traveled outside of Russia before. Among artworks displayed in New York one could view: icons by the fifteenth-century painter Andrei Rublev and the sixteenth-century painter Dionysii; Ivan Aivazovsky’s epic seascape The Ninth Wave; Ilya Repin’s iconic Bargehaulers on the Volga; Kazimir Malevich’s Black Square.
In addition to all these famous treasures there was one section that drew everyone’s attention. The section was dedicated to the social realism which replaced avant-garde and became the one and only officially approved art style starting 1932. The social realism period was presented by the Defense of Petrograd and the Defense of Sevastopol by Alexander Deineka, New Moscow by Yury Pimenov, An Unforgettable Meeting by Vasily Efanov, A letter from the Front by Alexander Loktionov.
Russian contemporary art which could be characterized by a variety of styles and approaches, was represented by artworks of the last three decades. Some of the plots like The Passport by Oskar Rabin became a reflection of deep social issues of socialist reality. Installation by Ilya Kabakov The Man Who Flew into the Space was named as a wonderful sample of conceptual art, full of social content.