First-hand Art. The Collector's View: Looking back and Forward

13 November 2020 - 27 January 2021

This year, the OVCHARENKO Gallery celebrates its thirtieth anniversary. It is a grand and joyful celebration, not only because it, in fact, aligns with the anniversary of our new state, born in the struggles of perestroika, but also because the Gallery survived the hardships of our modern history and remained a pioneer of the contemporary art.


The anniversary will be celebrated by a series of events throughout the whole year – from November of 2020 to November of 2021. The year brought many challenges yet introduced a new wave of art acquisitions – a popular and dignified genre of collecting in the times of lockdown.


The Gallery keeps up with the trend and launches an exhibition of unconventional format. Conceived as the overview of the exhibition history, it highlights the most significant pieces in the context of art collecting. In a sense, it is a dreamlike concept of a perfect contemporaneousness — an imaginary menagerie of an assumed friend of the artists, who is an art collector as well, just, for example, like Leonid Talochkin was.


This ‘new Talochkin’ could have become a young appreciator of the nonconformists in the 70s, should he had been born thirty years later; then blend in with the perestroika, obtain financial independence without losing his passion for artistic experiments in the 90s, to then continue collecting contemporary art, building up his confidence and getting more leisure time simultaneously.


However, it was almost impossible to stay a loyal admirer of the artists, who, due to the uncertainty of the age, could not remain the same, sometimes vanishing from the art scene forever.


Today, the Gallery observes its history with the benefit of hindsight and invites you to take a look at the artworks exhibited within these walls before and since have become a classic; to enjoy this splendid imaginary collection that could be private, public, or municipal from the higher ground. The exhibition could serve as an anthology of artistic trends of both the past and present days.


This art history of the new state begins, of course, with a powerhouse that is Socialist Art, that, back in the 90s, ensured the incredible success of Russian art abroad. The legacy of social realism was converted into the bold symbols of totalitarian utopia. These are ‘astral bodies’ of the airplanes by Boris Orlov and portraits of military officers by Natalia Turnova. Yet the past has another form, a more subtle one, represented by the graceful land art by Francisco Infante and nostalgia for the Thaw in the unforgettable installation by Dmitri Gutov ‘Above the Black Mud’ (the project is referred to in a 2020 painting of the same name).

In the artworks by Semyon Faibisovich and Aleksander Brodsky, the past is observed with a certain skepticism — in the words of a philosopher Mikhail Rynkin, “the face as an object of contemplation” here is erased by the collective identity.


The artists of the early 90s astonished their contemporaries with their disgust towards conventional forms of the artistic activity, as, for example, Oleg Golosiy’s shamelessly grand canvases (after all, the artist is granted a privilege of all-permissiveness); or a poster ‘No Means No’ by Anatoliy Osmolovsky, depicting a mighty palm gripping a hand of a corrupt white-collar; or a self-portrait as a nude warrior on horseback flying over the Red Square by Oleg Kulik, terrifying the viewer just like a naked barbarian terrifying a civilized Roman legionary.


Towards the end of the 90s, artists turned their attention to the peripheries of life and art instead of central squares. From now on, it appears that the source of creativity originates from the marginal and unconventional. The ‘Kids’ exhibition by Sergey Bratkov shocked the Moscow art community; however, the tendency appears much more intense: a similar effect was achieved by Stas Volyazlovsky, Sergey Kozhykhar, Nikolay Bakharev, Sergey Zarva, Vladislav Mamyshev-Monro, Sergey Shekhovtsov.


But as time went by, Sergey Bratkov — thanks to his great intuition regarding the cultural sector — shifted towards a completely different tone of voice. He creates pieces deprived of narrative and endowed with advanced formal language, like ‘The Amber Room’ presented at the exhibition. The first decade of the 21st century showed an obvious proneness towards the independence of art, proficiency of a high level, advanced work with shapes, and professional self-representation. Such artists as Victor Alimpiev, Maria Serebriakova, Vladimir Logutova, and Anna Parkina emerged from the formal school.


The third millennium’s artistic process is marked by a presence of drama and expression with no personal roots to it. It is not a wrenching cry of the artist, but a whir of destiny artist overheard to then pass it to his own mind (e.g. ‘Spell’ by Sergey Bratkov, ‘Living Water’ by Sergey Pakhomov), or to re-direct it to the East and its migrant issues, or to turn to automatic writing and subjectivity (Vlad Kulkov), or to reach out to the demonic underworld (North-7). And, finally, some of them process it with self-destructive ideas of art as it is, viscous and heavy-bodied as the oil itself (Leonid Tskhe).


‘First-hand Art. A Collector’s View: Looking Back and Forward” allows the viewer to experience this imaginary art collection. Unconventional exhibitions, as we already know, have always been carte-de-visite of the OVCHARENKO Gallery.


Evgenia Kikodze