А unique exhibition

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Ekaterina Grigorieva

Georges Pompidou National Art and Cultural Center in Paris presents the exhibition ‘Collection! Contemporary Art in the USSR and Russia: 1950-2000: a unique donation to the museum’

This unprecedented exhibition became one of the most remarkable events in the cultural life of Europe. It widely represented art works which reflect stages of development and various schools of Soviet and Russian art of the second half of the twentieth century and the early twenty-first century: from the Russian avant-garde on out to Moscow conceptualism, non-conformism and Sots Art.

The core of the exhibition, which opened on September 14 in the French capital, consists of 357 art works which will be gifted to the Georges Pompidou Center. The initiator and co-organizer of this unique project is the Vladimir Potanin Foundation.

The Foundation purchased 197 of the exhibited art works; the rest were donated by over 40 collectors and artists from Russia. In particular, the donations were made by such major Russian collectors as Vladimir and Ekaterina Semenikhin, Igor Tsukanov and Irina Bazhenova, as well as two French collectors of Russian art, Pierre Brochet and Paquita Escofet Miro.

The curators of the project are Olga Sviblova, the Director of the Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow (Russia) and Nicolas Liucci-Goutnikov, the Curator of the Georges Pompidou Center. They worked for approximately one year carefully considering paintings, graphics, art installations, photos and texts for the future exhibition. Nicolas Liucci-Goutnikov emphasized that the question of receiving art-works as donations is taken very seriously by the museum and is considered with the participation of the museum’s experts.

The ceremonial opening of the exhibition was attended by the Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation for International Cultural Cooperation, Michael Shvydkoy, and the President of the Pompidou Center, Serge Lasvignes. According to Mr Shvydkoy, expositions, such as those shown at the famous Pompidou Center, are the best kind of Russian propaganda and a powerful creative response to Russia’s critics.

The Director of the State Hermitage Museum, Michael Piotrovsky, who also visited the opening ceremony, had called this project a good medication for Russophobia.

The exposition, which represents art works of artists such as Yuri Albert, Sergei Bugaev-Afrika, Dmitri Gutov, Francisco Infante, Yuri Zlotnikov, Ilya Kabakov, Vladislav Mamyshev-Monroe, Andrei Monastyrsky, Viktor Pivovarov, Dmitri Prigov, Vladimir Yakovlev and many others, reflects a complex path of exploration and revelation which Russian art has been following during recent decades.

“Contemporary Russian art, especially of the second half of the twentieth century, is poorly represented abroad. The Pompidou Center owns a good collection of Russian avant-garde. And they would, of course, like to complete their collection of Russian art of the twentieth century,” Oksana Oracheva, the General Director of the Vladimir Potanin Foundation, noted.

Let us recall that this is far from being the first project of the Foundation which aim at the international promotion of Russian culture. We would like to mention the exhibition: ‘When Russia spoke French: Paris – St. Petersburg. 1800-1830’, which was held in 2003 in France and had a broad international resonance. The Vladimir Potanin Foundation also supported the ambitious exhibition: ‘Russia!’ which opened in September 2005 in the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. It was the most representative exposition of Russian art which had ever been presented in the United States. And in 2014 the Foundation initiated the project ‘The Russian drawing room’ in the Kennedy Center in Washington.

‘We believe in the timely character of such initiatives which are aimed at the connection of Western and Russian art,” Oksana Oracheva said.

The Foundation is also preparing an illustrated album: Russia: The XX Century in English and French which will include art works of the majority of the artists from the exhibition: ‘Collection! Contemporary Art in the USSR and Russia 1950-2000’. The album will be presented in the Pompidou Center. A catalogue of the donated collection will also be available.

As Bernard Blistène, a Director of the Georges Pompidou Center, promised to the artists and sponsors upon the closing of the exhibition on March 27: all the art works which have been donated will become an integral part of the Georges Pompidou Center’s collection. They will not be hidden in the reserve stocks but will be shown according to a rotation schedule as part of the permanent exhibition.

The ‘Collection!’, which will permanently remain in the Pompidou Center together with gems of the Russian avant-garde of the early twentieth century, reveals Russia as not only a country with a great classical culture but also a global art superpower of contemporary history. It is a country of a vibrant and free art: a dynamic art which fully and creatively reflects life in Russia. The ‘Collection’ is a kind of joint Russian-French response to all those who do not wish us well, and who observe us without first removing their shaded spectacles. Such a response would not be possible if it were not for the friendly relations which have united many of us for several decades.

Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation
for International Cultural Cooperation
Michael Shvydkoy

Leonid Sokov. The lock “Sickle and Hammer”. 1989-2006.
Grisha Bruskin. From the series “Birth of a Hero”.1984-1985
Sergei Bugaev-Afrika. “The Girl and a Cat”. 1985.
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