"Authorized for Export from the USSR." Moscow nonconformist art from the collections of Ekaterina and Vladimir Semenikhin and private owners"
June 22 - October 2, 2011
The exhibition is dedicated to one of the most interesting phenomena in the artistic life of Soviet Moscow that emerged in mid-1950s with the advent of the Khruches' Thaw. The Moscow nonconformist art (for the fine art experts and critics also known as "second avant-garde", "other art" or "underground art") has become a socio-artistic trend that brought together a wide range of artists, who often had diametrically opposite creative credos.
In searching for new forms of artistic language, nonconformists turned to the practice of artistic experimentation having chosen the Russian avant-garde and old Russian art as well as various forms of Western modernism as the main source of inspiration, entering into an open conflict with the official art doctrine.
Following Nikita Khrushchev's well-known visit to the exhibition "30th Anniversary of the Moscow Branch of Artists' Union" in 1962, when he morally destroyed the presented artworks in public, the experimental creativity of many artists has been relegated to illegal art.
Rejected by the authorities, the artists formed a unique unofficial subculture that disappeared with the collapse of the USSR and the fall of the "Iron Curtain". Those who were not members of any of the official creative Unions were forced into hard work to sustain themselves being employed as street cleaners, stokers or porters. Others had to lead a double life officially they worked as book illustrators, while their spare time was devoted to underground art. Such art could be viewed only by friends at secretly organized apartment exhibitions, which had always been a risky and dangerous venture.
Nevertheless, unofficial art inspired great interest of the public, similar to "samizdat" books or poetry of forbidden writers those "outcasts" of the art had been attracting many supporters, who had queued to see private and semi-official exhibitions, as well as connoisseurs among collectors and diplomats who actively purchased their artworks and exported them abroad.
On the paintings, which were denied cultural value, the Ministry of Culture used to put a familiar and much-appreciated today "Authorized for export from the USSR" stamp. So, many works including the key paintings of nonconformists were taken out of the Union and served as the beginning for the renowned private and museum collections of unofficial Soviet art world-wide.
Despite the fact that the time had irretrievably gone by resulting in the fading of the nonconformists' movement in 1980s, it still evokes keen interest judging by the number of exhibitions, round table and conferences. Russian collectors have managed to create significant collections of works of that period by purchasing the paintings that were taken out abroad.
The exhibition organizers set out the task to revisit the phenomena of the Moscow nonconformism, by showing the originality of artistic practices and heterogeneity of the trend that initiated contemporary Russian art.
The exhibition will demonstrate about one hundred and fifty artworks: paintings and graphics. The main part of the exposition includes artworks from Ekaterina and Vladimir Semenikhin's collection. Museums and private collectors are welcome to participate in the show.