Russia’s modern history is as rich and fragmented as it gets. Leo Tolstoy deftly recounted it in his epic novel War and Peace, which followed the lives of five aristocratic families through the times of the tsars to the arrival of Soviet Russia.
Just as Russian authors captured this tumultuous time masterfully with words, painters were creating a visual record that is considered by art critics to have been second to none.
However, the long periods of war and chaos did little to preserve the artistic record and much of those centuries of artwork were destroyed, lost or pilfered by vanquishing powers.
One exhibition reveals the artistic life behind Russia’s Iron Curtain. Art Russe presents ‘Art Russe Collection of 20th Century Russian and Soviet Art: War and Peace’, which is the first major exhibition of 20th century Russian and Soviet art that has come to the UAE and will be exhibited until December 10 at Emirates Palace.
Art Russe dedicates itself to painstakingly collecting and curating as much of that period’s artwork as it can gather and now you can take a tour of Russian history via this handsome exhibition.
The unique exhibition is being held under the Patronage of His Highness Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, the minister of culture, youth and social development who hopes to introduce audiences to the artistic heritage of this important period of Russian history. The exhibition includes more than 100 artworks of different genres, showcasing several distinctive styles of Russian art that have developed over the past century.
Andrey Filatov, the founder of Art Russe, says, ‘It is a great honour for Art Russe to present this new exhibition in the capital of the UAE. Abu Dhabi is a recognised cultural centre with world class museums opening branches here, such as the Louvre and the Guggenheim, and
I feel privileged to join them in this great city to present some little known but impressive works from the Russian school of art.’
On the procurement of Art Russe’s collection, Andrey explains, ‘I have successfully gathered artwork from famous collectors who happily parted with their artwork because they knew that by selling me their beloved art we would make them accessible to the public. The world is becoming more interested in Russia and we hope that, through our exhibition, there will be interest from other countries to create a museum of Russian art.’
On the mission of Art Russe, he adds, ‘There is still little awareness of 20th century Russian art among international audiences. I am trying to introduce these great artists and the incredible variety of themes and styles to the wider public. We are aiming to develop a greater understanding of Soviet and Russian cultural contributions and want to increase the appreciation for this art through hosting exhibitions, lending to galleries and publishing books and catalogues. We effectively want to walk people through Russian history pictorially.’
In total, the exhibition will feature more than 120 works, tracing the history of Russian and Soviet art throughout the 20th century. The exhibition – the most complete representation of Art Russe’s collection – will be divided into four unique sections.
The first section, ‘The Legacy of War’, shows works relating to conflict, its immediate effects and the language of victory. The second section relates to the theme of ‘Nature and Beauty’ while the third displays large canvases that deal with the theme of ‘Contemplation’. The final section addresses the theme of ‘Endeavour’ and the heroic actions of Soviet men and women in the fields, in the concert hall and in sporting competitions.
Visitors will see sculptures by Vera Mukhina and Yevgeny Vuchetich; the still lifes of Alexander Gerasimov and Alexei Gritsai; the landscapes of Nickolai Andronov and Semeon Chuykov; the genre paintings of Nickolai Baskakov and Arkady Plastov; the portraits of Abram Arkhipov and Alexander Bubnov; and the architectural landscapes of Tahir Salahov and Vladimir Stozharov, as well as masterpieces by Nikolai Fechin, the Tkachev Brothers, Nikolai Roerich, and many others.
Through these works, the audience will have the opportunity to learn about Russian history, culture and beauty through the eyes of master artists of that time.
Free. Oct 7-Dec 10. 10am-10pm. Emirates Palace, Gallery 1, West Corniche Road (02 690 9000).