The Museum of Russian Impressionism in Moscow has once again organized a show of little-known but fascinating Russian art.
“Other Shores” is a partial reconstruction of an almost forgotten exhibition held almost 100 years ago in New York, in 1924. The exhibition included works by Petr Konchalvsky, Igor Grabar, Mikhail Lariononv, Aristarkh Lentulov, Boris Grigoriev, and Stanislav Zhukovsky. At the entrance to the show visitors are greeted by black and white photographs flashing images of ladies in feathers, Anna Pavlova in a tutu, Fyodor Chaliapin in a dressing gown, dirigibles floating over the Manhattan skyscrapers and Buster Keaton dashing after his automobile.
The name “Other Shores” refers to the autobiography by one of the greatest Russian writers in emigration, Vladimir Nabokov. The 1924 show had a different name: It was called the Russian Art Exhibition and was advertised with posters of a bearded merchant in a warm, bright blue homespun coat painted by Boris Kustodiev.
The show is filled with masterpieces of Russian art that had become completely unknown in Russia, such as Konstantin Somov’s “The Old Ballet” (1923) painted a year before the exhibition. It might have been chosen by the curators of that distant show as an allegory of pre-Revolutionary Russia. After all, ballet was the embodiment of all the glory and power of the empire, the quintessence of the luxury that the Russian court was famous for. Two small porcelain statuettes by the same artist — “A Lady Removing Her Mask” and “Lovers” — are some of the show’s best works despite their small size.
Seven works by Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin were sent to New York, most of them portraits, including one of Anna Akhmatova, a family portrait and one painting of his wife. The exhibition includes Petrov-Vodkin’s “Yellow Face” (1921), which was sent to Moscow from the Chuvash State Art Museum.
Another fine work is “Officer’s Barbershop” by Mikhail Larionov that is now in the collection of the Albertina Museum in Vienna. Done in the “neo-primitivist period of the artist, when he was inspired by provincial Russian signs,” the catalog notes, it is brilliantly colorful and comedic.
The vivid painting “A Young Peasant Woman” (1920) by Abram Arkhipov had a curious fate. It was purchased during the tour by the Arts and Crafts Club of New Orleans, which then passed it on to what is now the Art Museum of News Orleans. It remained there until 2008 when it was sold to a private collector at an auction at Christie’s.
The museum curators Olga Yurkina, Daria Uryadova, and Yulia Petrova wanted to recreate the chronicle of events and find all the works that represented distant Russia — then already Soviet Russia — to the American public. But the show had little “Soviet art.” The paintings reflected the spirit of the recent past or the 1920s.
Great artists, bad businessmen
The exhibition that crossed almost all of prosperous America was organized by the painters themselves — Igor Grabar, Sergei Vinogradov, and Konstantin Somov — and not without a certain dose of opportunism. The chance to show their works in America seemed like salvation to artists in dire straits after the 1917 Revolution. They invited about one hundred of the best artists in the country, including Martiros Saryan,Anna Golubkina, Konstantin Yuon, Isaak Brodsky and Stanislav Zhukovsky. More than one thousand works of art were packed and sent by ship to the U.S. They were chosen as works for every taste, from the Wanderers to scandalous avant-garde artists, from gloomy views of the outskirts of St. Petersburg to the erotic “Book of the Marquess.”
When the Russian artists arrived in New York, they were completely bowled over by the city: skyscrapers — “new Cologne cathedrals” — a sea of lights, the sounds of jazz. It was all new and unfamiliar to them. “America is not at all like Europe, it’s a completely different country,” Sergei Vinogradov wrote home.
As the notes to the exhibition explain, “The artists didn’t have the goal of making their mark in the history of Russian-American relations: they were busy with more down-to-earth tasks and weren’t trying to capture it all on paper and canvas. They undoubtedly could not imagine that 100 years from then people would be studying this lark as something serious.”
Although at the time the U.S. government had not recognized the Soviet Union, the artists from Russia were greeted quite warmly by the press and public. After the show in New York, the exhibition went on tour around the country and was even sent north to Canada. In the end, the organizers had a loss of more than $15,000 due to their ignorance of American life, inflated expectations, and the steep prices set by the artists. In January 1927 the exhibition returned to Russia.
Take the exhibition with you
At the end of this show is a marvelous catalog that allows you to see the detailed graphics up close. They are worth looking at, especially works by Vasily Masyutin with his expressive portraits of his contemporaries, and book covers done by Dmitri Mitrokhin. Unfortunately, the dim lighting in the show, designed to be expressive, sometimes makes it difficult to see all the works well. In one dark corner is a double watercolor portrait of the daughters of the opera singer Fyodor Chaliapin, Marfa and Marina, paintedby Boris Kustodiev in 1920. The catalog brings it to life.
The catalog also includes works that were sent to New York in 1924 but not available for display in the show. One of these works is a painting by Ilya Mashkov called “Russian Venus” (1914) that depicts a nude Russian beauty lying in front of an enormous painting of Napoleon on a troika, galloping with his troops across the Russian fields.
The show will run until Jan. 16, 2022. For more information and ticket sales, see the site here.
Art Beat: It's Art Crawl weekend – Coast Reporter
The 2021 Sunshine Coast Art Crawl kicks off Friday, Oct. 22 at 10 a.m., with 164 venues open to visitors until 5 p.m. all three days, through Sunday. And at 10 of those venues (as of press time), Friday evening from 7 to 9 p.m. will also be a time for celebration. Most of the partying is at Gibsons venues, but Redecor + Design (venue #111) on Cowrie Street in Sechelt will also be open, as are Halfmoon Bay venues The Mink Farm Gallery (#146), and Kito Tosetti (#147). Details are at the “Friday Night Parties” link at sunshinecoastartcrawl.com.
Art of Healing
The Sechelt Hospital Foundation’s Art of Healing campaign holds its Gala on Saturday, Oct. 23 at the Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden (venue #126). That’s where 36 works donated by some great local artists are on display and will be distributed in an exclusive online raffle draw to 36 ticketholders. All visitors to the exhibit can also bid on auction packages, and purchase raffle tickets for the grand travel prizes, among them a grand prize of a trip for two to Venice or any other European destination.
Sechelt Arts Festival
It’s also the final weekend of the Sechelt Arts Festival, with the premiere of the play, Voices, at Raven’s Cry Theatre. There will be three performances, Friday night, Oct. 22, Saturday night, and a Sunday matinee. The visual art and heritage canoe displays at Seaside Centre become Art Crawl venue #115. Poet Valerie Mason-John speaks in a free event (registration required) at Raven’s Cry on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. And your last chance to add your touch to the Paintillio mural at Trail Bay Centre will also be on Saturday, until 4 p.m. Info and tickets at the festival website.
New writers’ group
The Sunshine Coast Writers and Editors Society is holding its first meeting on Friday, Oct. 22 at 7 p.m., via Zoom. The society’s purpose is “to serve writers, editors and groups on the Sunshine Coast to grow and develop their skills, as well as support other writers’ groups and events in the province and across Canada,” and “to hold events and launch projects to highlight the incredible talent that exists on the Coast.” Contact Cathalynn Cindy Labonte-Smith at 604-724-3534 for a Zoom link.
Meet the author
Writer Jennie Tschoban will be signing copies of her funny and touching memoir, Tales & Lies My Baba Told Me, on Saturday, Oct. 23, from 1 to 3 p.m. at Daffadowndilly Boutique & Gallery, on Marine Drive in Gibsons.
Meet the artists
On Sunday, Oct. 24 starting at 2 p.m., Jennifer Bryant and Jennifer Ireland will talk about their new exhibit, Matters of Scale, on now at the Sunshine Coast Arts Council’s Doris Crowston Gallery in Sechelt.
The band Astral Motion bring their blend of originals and classics to Roberts Creek Legion on Friday, Oct. 22 at 7 p.m. On Saturday, Oct. 23 at the Creek Legion, Vancouver acoustic band Farmteam start their sets at 7:30 p.m.
The Locals play the Turf Stage at Tapworks in Gibsons on Saturday, Oct. 23, 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. On Wednesday, Oct. 27, Vancouver singer-songwriter Eamon McGrath plays Tapworks at 8 p.m.
At the Gibsons Legion on Saturday, Oct. 23, Poppa Greg and the band kick things off at 7:30 p.m.
At the Clubhouse Restaurant in Pender Harbour, catch Half Cut and the Slackers on Sunday, Oct. 24, from 2 to 5 p.m.
ArtCity: Art education in the gallery (and virtual) space – Woodstock Sentinel Review
In September, I returned to the Woodstock Art Gallery as the assistant curator of education intern, eager to actively bridge arts programming within the permanent collection and the public.
In September, I returned to the Woodstock Art Gallery as the assistant curator of education intern, eager to actively bridge arts programming within the permanent collection and the public. I have been involved with the gallery for three years, beginning as a co-op student with the education department in 2018 and then as the curatorial and collections assistant in 2019 and 2020. In my previous position, I worked exclusively in a background role curating exhibitions and assisting in collections management. With this new role as assistant curator of education, however, I was able to once again rekindle my interest in bringing the arts to the local community.
This position, of course, comes with unique challenges during a pandemic. Everything that we once considered emblematic of educational programming – in-person classroom trips, tours and studio events – has been put on pause in an abundance of caution. Over the last year and a half, the staff at the Woodstock Art Gallery have created online lessons and educational resources, virtual exhibitions and other online activities for the public. In addition, artist talks, curator webinars and exhibition openings have all been streamed virtually. It is within these unique circumstances that I began my new position in the education department.
The role of assistant curator of education is a fairly recent addition to the Woodstock Art Gallery staff roster. Created in 2018, this short-term internship aids the education and curatorial departments in realizing public programming. Previous interns have curated exhibitions, written a practical accessibility guide, conducted research and led education programming. The education department’s current goals had to be completely reoriented to accommodate the pandemic, however. Virtual resources are being further developed and made accessible to both the public and teachers alike. As collaboration with the curatorial department at the Woodstock Art Gallery has become a central component of arts education programming, alternative methods to experience exhibitions are also currently in the works.
The future of education programming, however, will not remain entirely within a virtual space. There is a unique value to in-person programming that staff at the Woodstock Art Gallery yearn to return to. Releasing Community Creation Kits and art grab bags throughout this past year, for instance, has been a way to bring art-making materials back into the hands of the public during the toughest restrictions. Now as lockdowns slowly ease and restrictions lessen, we have begun to return to in-person educational programming.
In September, the gallery hosted its first Creative PA day program since the beginning of the pandemic with a small group of kids. The day was filled with the arts as we toured exhibitions, visited the park, and explored lessons in sculpture making. By the end of the day, each child brought home their sculpture and multimedia creations, along with the tools to create more. Building upon this successful day, the education department will slowly begin to roll out more in-person programming, including another Creative PA Day in November. But this, of course, will take time.
Throughout this pandemic, educational programming has taken on many forms – from entirely virtual resources to at-home art kits and PA days, educational programming has required innovation and creativity. The future of education will forever be shaped by the lessons learned during the pandemic and will perhaps take on a whole new form that has yet to be explored.
Julia deKwant is the assistant curator of education intern at the Woodstock Art Gallery. The Woodstock Art Gallery acknowledges the support for this position which is funded by Young Canada Works at Building Careers in Heritage.
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