Both film and discussion will look at what happened to the new stars of the contemporary art scene during this turbulent period of Russian history.
The documentary USSR Art, produced and directed by Barbara K. Herbich, was filmed in Moscow in 1988 at the time of the legendary Sotheby’s Moscow auction, which introduced the international public to the work of contemporary Russian artists. For the majority of participating artists, it was the first time their artworks had been sold officially. The specific moment captured by the American film-makers was the point at which avant-garde artists, “metaphysical” painters, and conceptualists—who had until recently been persecuted—were given the opportunity both to exhibit their works and to sell them via a leading auction house. How did it feel to achieve this unexpected fame after many years of oblivion, to receive recognition having existed in the underground?
As well as telling the story of the auction, the film looks at what happened to the new stars of the contemporary art scene during the year that followed. By 1988, the film-makers were interviewing the artists not in the cellars and attics of Moscow, but in apartments and galleries in New York and Berlin.
The film will be introduced by its co-producer, Jamey Gambrell. Artists Elena Elagina, Igor Makarevich, and Sergei Shutov will share their memories of the time. The discussion will be moderated by Sasha Obukhova, curator of Garage Archive Collection.