20th-Century Art Show Highlights Russian Contribution

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A major art collection with Russian roots has opened at the UN headquarters in Geneva. It’s the first time the Museum of Avant-Garde Mаstery has made its collection of 20th-century masterpieces available to the public.

The exhibition’s curator, Andrey Tolstoy, Correspondent Member of the Russian Academy of Arts and a leading researcher of Russian emigrant art, says the show is about “the contribution emigrant artists from Russia made.”

“It decisively proves the infinity of artistic quests beyond the boundaries of national schools, beyond national boundaries,” he added.

The three sections of the display – “Experiments of the 1920s”, “The Paris School” and “From Non-conformism to Conceptualism” – outline developments with a particularly noticeable Russian imprint. Many of them have gone down in art history.

The collection’s organizers have concentrated on the quality of the art and the painters in a bid to show the best works of the most significant artists of the time.

“It was very hard to choose… In this collection there are Marc Chagall, Chaim Soutine, David Shterenberg, Leon Bakst,” Tolstoy told RT in the interview.

The Collection of the Museum of Avant-Garde Mаstery consists of more than 300 top-class pieces. Now that it’s open to the public, it will shed light on half-forgotten and underestimated Russian art and its contribution to the international art scene of the 20th century.

Modern avant-garde artist Erik Bulatov believes that “this collection really shows the contribution of Russian art to world culture… It’s absolutely necessary now because now is the time when Russian art must integrate into international and, first of all, European art. Until recently it has been underestimated and misunderstood in the West. Literature, music, ballet won world recognition long ago, but painting – not, not enough yet.”

Viktor Pivovarov, an artist whose works are represented in the collection, explained to RT the importance of the avant-garde.

“As an artist I found myself in a very fortunate time, when Russian art was very productive, the end of the 1960s – the beginning of 1970s. And the charge I received back then is still with me, at least I hope so. It was the time when European, American and Russian art went through major events. So it was the time of innovations,” he said.

“Times have drastically changed, and we are not seeing any breakthroughs today with regard to artistic form; modern artists tend to use already-familiar forms,” Pivovarov added.

The President of the Museum, and the man who initiated the exhibition, Vyatcheslav Kantor, said: “the most important task of this exhibition is educating tolerance between the peoples.”

He said “many people did not know in Europe that these avant-garde artists have Russian origins; so this exhibition aims to restore the balance among the cultures through the art of a certain but vast period of time. The venue is also very much symbolic – the headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva.”