Tashkent, Uzbekistan, 2024 — In April 2024 will be the opening of the exhibition "Uzbekistan: Avant-Garde in the Desert." The project aims to present to both the Italian and international audience an important, though relatively unknown chapter of the art history from the first half of the 20th century. Exhibition divided into two sections, hosted at two different venues: "Form and Symbol" at the exhibition space of Ca' Foscari University in Venice, and "Light and Color" at the Pitti Palace in Florence. The project is supported by the Uzbekistan Art and Culture Development Foundation and curated by Silvia Burini and Giuseppe Barbieri from the Centre for the Study of Russian Art at Ca' Foscari University (CSAR). The exhibitions will feature more than 100 paintings and drawings created in the first half of the 20th century, along with items of national decorative and applied arts from the collections of the State Museum of Arts of Karakalpakstan named after Igor Savitsky and the State Museum of Arts of Uzbekistan.
This is the first project of its kind to highlight the connection between the two most significant museum art collections of the 20th century in Uzbekistan. Visitors will find a path to deeply understand and appreciate this period. Up to now, modernist artists working in Central Asia have been considered only as peripheral representatives of the Russian avant-garde; followers of its leaders like Wassily Kandinsky, Kazimir Malevich, Alexander Rodchenko, Pavel Filonov, and other world-renowned masters. For the first time, the international audience will witness the works of Alexander Volkov, Nikolai Karakhan, Nadezhda Kashina, Elena Korovai, Mikhail Kurzin, Viktor Ufimtsev, Ural Tansykbaev, Usto Mumin (Alexander Nikolayev), whose art the exhibition curators term as "avant-garde orientalis." For the first time, there will be a visual comparison of the works of the Russian avant-garde and the "oriental avant-garde" from the museum collections of the State Museum of Arts of Uzbekistan, Tashkent, and the State Museum of Arts named after Igor Savitsky, Nukus, showcasing the fruitful interaction of artists working at the beginning of the century in the region and the influence of contemporary European painting trends learned through the artistic and cultural environment at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries.
Light and Color
The Florentine section of the "Uzbekistan: Avant-Garde in the Desert" exhibition project is titled "Light and Color" and focuses on the depiction of Central Asia in the art of the first half of the 20th century, starting from Russian orientalists working in Turkestan before 1917, to the representatives of the national painting school that formed in Uzbekistan as a result of intercultural dialogue and exchange.
During the dramatic historical processes of the first half of the 20th century, Uzbekistan became a place of life and work, as well as an inexhaustible source of inspiration for artists of different nationalities and creative views. The shift in artistic paradigms in the region overall corresponded to the periodization of Soviet art. The so-called Turkestan avant-garde, for which the exhibition curators offer a broader and more inclusive term "Avant-Garde Orientalis," gradually and forcibly gave way to painting that conformed to the ideological dictates of socialist realism. Nonetheless, the pictorial culture of "light and color," essential for the perception and conveyance of local nature, architecture, and daily life, developed and was enriched through various art concepts.
The "Light and Color" exhibition showcases paintings demonstrating various approaches to these themes. Special attention is given to the generation of Avant-Garde Orientalis artists: Alexander Volkov, Nikolai Karakhan, Nadezhda Kashina, Elena Korovai, Mikhail Kurzin, Ural Tansykbaev, Oganes Tatevosyan, Usto Mumin (Alexander Nikolayev), Viktor Ufimtsev. Their works engage in a fascinating dialogue with the traditions of Central Asian folk art and the natural palette of Uzbekistan.
Form and Symbol
The Venetian section of the project is called "Form and Symbol." Regarding form, the curators focus on the influence exerted on Central Asian painting by the avant-garde collection sent to the Tashkent Museum of Arts in 1921 by the Moscow Museum Bureau at the Department of Fine Arts of the People's Commissariat for Enlightenment. The cultural community, and especially the artists of Turkestan, had the opportunity to see the works of Kandinsky, Klun, Rodchenko, Popova, Rozanova, Exter – avant-gardists who were among the first to transition to non-objective art and influenced the establishment of abstractionism as a global movement in 20th-century art. The exhibition will also feature some of the finest works by "avant-garde orientalis" artists. The curators reveal the expressive evolution of this artistic direction. Complemented by items of national decorative and applied arts, the exhibition space will convey the depth of cultural and historical heritage and demonstrate the intercultural dialogue between artists from Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Armenia, most of whom received their education outside of Uzbekistan but found their inspiration in Central Asia.
The project "Uzbekistan: Avant-Garde in the Desert" offers the international public an opportunity to get acquainted with the figure of Igor Savitsky and his contribution, which has had an impact on preserving and transmitting artistic heritage to future generations. An archaeologist by training, an artist and a passionate collector — since the late 1950s, Savitsky amassed thousands of archaeological finds and items of decorative and applied art from Karakalpakstan, placing them alongside thousands of works of painting and graphic art from Uzbekistan and the Soviet Union within the concept of a "synthetic museum." Igor Savitsky regularly visited Moscow in search of artworks from artists' studios, acquiring them from widows and heirs, paying great attention to avant-garde works from the early 20th century while still focusing on the works of artists who lived and worked in Uzbekistan, where he himself had been evacuated during World War II.
Thus, Savitsky managed to collect and preserve one of the largest collections of avant-garde works with a unique focus on the works of artists from Central Asia. In addition to the works collected by Savitsky, the exhibition will feature archival photos and a multimedia installation.
The "Light and Color" section of the "Uzbekistan: Avant-Garde in the Desert" exhibition will be open in Florence at the Pitti Palace from April 16 to June 30, 2024.
"Form and Symbol" will be open from April 17 to September 29, 2024, at the exhibition space of Ca' Foscari University in Venice.
Press contacts:
The Uzbekistan Art and Culture Development Foundation’s Press Service