The Centre Pompidou in Paris is due to receive a major donation of over 250 works of Russian art from the second half of the 20th century. The gift has been funded by the foundation of the Russian billionaire Vladimir Potanin and donations by private collectors, artists and their heirs.
Olga Sviblova, the director of Moscow’s Multimedia Art Museum, and Nicolas Liucci-Goutnikov of the Pompidou curated the new collection, which is being unveiled as an exhibition titled “Kollektsia! Contemporary art in the USSR and in Russia, 1950-2000. A Major Donation (14 September-27 March 2017).
The contributing collectors, including Igor Tsukanov, Vladimir and Ekaterina Semenikhin, Inna Bazhenova (the owner of The Art Newspaper) and Pierre Brochet, a Moscow-based French collector of Russian art, have donated works by artists ranging from Komar and Melamid to Erik Bulatov to Mikhail Roginsky (Bazhenova’s contribution). Overall, the sweep of the presentation extends from Soviet nonconformist artists such as Vladimir Yakovlev, Yuri Zlotnikov and Francisco Infante—who emerged from the period of the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev’s Thaw following the death of the dictator Joseph Stalin—to the bold contemporary work created by artists such as Oleg Kulik and the AES+F collective as the Soviet Union was collapsing and after its demise.
The Pompidou is known for its collection of works by Wassily Kandinsky and already had significant pieces by Eduard Steinberg, a Soviet dissident artist who died in Paris in 2012; these will now be supplemented by the new acquisitions. The museum notes in its announcement of the upcoming show that the collection “offers a panorama” of “some 40 years of contemporary art in the USSR and Russia” and “reveals the richness of an art born outside the official framework”. Liucci-Goutnikov told The Art Newspaper Russia that artists who live or have lived in Paris were being highlighted. “We are a French museum and wanted to pay tribute to them,” he said. The collection also fills in blanks in the Pompidou’s “map of international Conceptualism”. Liucci-Goutnikov said: “We were disastrously short of many works from Russia.” Now the Pompidou will have works ranging from Andrei Monastyrsky’s Collective Actions group founded in the 1970s to the Inspection Medical Hermeneutics collective, created in the late 1980s.
In an interview published on 22 August on artandhouses, a Russian news website devoted to the visual arts, Oksana Oracheva, the general director of the Vladimir Potanin Foundation, said: “The project is unique in that for the first time a collection is appearing in one of the leading museums of the West showing viewers a panorama of the development of Russian contemporary art with all of its main movements. The donated works will complete the logical chain and incorporate Russia into the international context of 20th century art. It is of value that the works will be introduced into scholarship abroad and will become known to those who are are studying art history today.”
The Pompidou show overlaps with a historic exhibition at the Fondation Louis Vuitton of the Russian collector Sergei Shchukin’s seminal collection of early Modern art, including Matisse and Picasso, which was seized and divided by the Soviet regime and is now in the Pushkin State Museum in Moscow and the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.