The Year of 1997


From 11 February 2014




February 11, 7:30 pm
Sasha Obukhova: The Year of 1997

The stormy 1990s rearranged and readjusted the relationships between different areas of post-Soviet life-art and politics being no exception. Gone was the depressing obligation to "explain oneself to the authorities," as artists gradually became involved in the political process, often publicly supporting election campaigns by parties whose missions they hardly understood. Artists populated the void that would soon be filled by the emerging creative classes, and, due to a lack of developed PR technologies, produced political propaganda in the form of slogans and posters. In this realm of words and images, artists had no equals at this time.
In the 1990s, art galleries replaced kvartirniks (exhibitions and happenings held in private apartments) and art was ready to enter the public space. With no support coming from the authorities, gallery owners, art historians and artists consolidated into a professional community. The year of 1997 appeared optimistic, with a particular promise of the establishment of an art market.
By the end of the decade, most artists had articulated their own political positions, discarding a Conceptualist contempt for Socialist art. Many of them supported General Lebed's campaign. Likewise, art galleries sought to shake down political apathy, as exemplified by Marat Guelman's activities, including politically themed exhibitions, diverse governmental projects, and election campaigns for different parties, all featuring prominent artists.

Sasha Obukhova (born 1967) is an art historian and member of the Kandinsky Award expert board. She has worked at Moscow Contemporary Art Institute, Tretyakov Gallery, and State Center for Contemporary Art. Since 2012 she has been acting as the head of the Garage research department.

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1. The Non-Governmental Control Commission. Against All Parties. 1999. Action/political campaign. Lenin's Mausoleum, Moscow.

2. Radek Group. Manifestations. 2002. Action. Moscow.

3. Oleg Kulik. The Animal Party. 1995. Poster.

4. The Non-Governmental Control Commission. Barricade on Bolshaya Nikitskaya Street. 1998. Action. Moscow.