That Obscure Object of Art

That Obscure Object of Art
Dates 28 October — 16 November 2008
Address Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria
Curator: Vladimir Levashov

“That Obscure Object of Art”, an exhibition of 40 works including paintings, assemblages and sculptures by 17 contemporary Russian artists, opens at the Kunsthistorische Museum in Vienna on 28 October 2008. Curated by Vladimir Levashov, the show includes artists from the Sots Art Movement such as Vitaly Komar, Alexander Melamid, Konstantin Zvezdochetov, Alexander Kosolapov and Boris Orlov, as well as works from the Moscow Conceptualists, from the same period, such as Andrey Monastyrsky, Yuri Albert, and Vadim Zakharov.

Vladimir Levashov, curator of “That Obscure Object of Art” comments: “I believe the time has come to highlight and to refocus on these art forms that have developed in Russia over the last 30 years. Contemporary Russian art was born out of the “cultural underground” and developed, up to the time of the perestroika, in opposition to the official art. In the 1970s, it was this underground environment that brought forth the most important innovative movements such as Moscow Conceptualism and Sots Art.”

The similarities and juxtapositions between these two movements of Russian art of the late 20th and early 21st century form the heart of “That Obscure Object of Art”. Often referred to as “Soviet Pop Art,” Sots Art (short for Socialist Art) originated in the Soviet Union in the early 1970s as a reaction against the official aesthetic doctrine of the state — Socialist Realism. The Moscow Conceptualist, or Russian Conceptualist, movement began with the Sots art in the early 1970s, and continued as a trend in Russian art into the 1980s. It attempted to subvert socialist ideology using conceptual art strategies.

Stella Kesaeva, President of Stella Art Foundation, comments: “It is the first time that a private collection will be showing contemporary Russian art of this scale at a venue outside of Russia and we are proud to be able to present it at the Viennese Kunsthistorische Museum, one of the world’s leading art institutions. The show fully reflects the Foundation’s policy which is aimed at supporting Russian contemporary art and bridging through cultural diplomacy the East-West divide. It’s a rare chance to see this unexplored strand of contemporary Russian art which will be inspiring to European and Russian audiences alike.”

Dr. Wilfried Seipel, Director General of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, says: “The collection of the Stella Art Foundation highlights an important episode in Russian history, and both its content as well as its quality will have exciting ressonances in the Kunsthistorische Museum. We are honored to open our spaces to this extraordinary show”.

The title of the exhibition refers to Luis Bunuel’s last film “Cet obscur objet du desir” (1977), in which the characters of the principal females are constantly contrasted. It is clear that the two fellow movements Sots Art and the Moscow Conceptualism both juggled for critical acclaim.

The project was supported by the Mercury Group.