Daniil Dondurey and Georgy Nikich, curators of the 17th Exhibition of Works by Young Moscow Artists (1986) in discussion with Sasha Obukhova. The title refers to a painting by Sergei Shutov which has become a notorious symbol of the show.
The 17th Exhibition of Works by Young Artists at the Moscow Union of Artists (MOSKh) and its public program were one of the first attempts to restructure the Soviet art scene. The project brought together a number of people, institutions, and initiatives with very different backgrounds, but which seemed to share the same modernizing ideals and values.
The huge success of this complex and controversial exhibition, its selection of artists (left- and right-leaning, contemporary and traditional, classically-educated and self-taught) and the mix of radicalism and compromise make it an event that cannot easily be classified. Now, thirty years later, we can begin to unravel its complexities and attempt to answer some of the key questions about the Russian contemporary art scene of the time. How did new exhibition formats develop? How did contemporary culture overcome the pressure of conservative structures and policies? How did people work “for an idea,” and why were they surprised when they actually got paid for their work? How were freedom and openness endorsed yet limited?