Bidding for Glasnost continues a series of research exhibitions at Garage devoted to various events and phenomena in the history of Russian and Soviet contemporary art.
On July 7 1988, Sotheby’s held an auction at the Sovincenter in Moscow that would become the most controversial art event of the Soviet era. Initiated by auctioneer Simon de Pury, more than 100 lots of avant-garde and “unofficial” contemporary works were offered to international collectors flown in especially for the event, watched over by incredulous local artists and intelligentsia, who were not permitted to bid under the legislation of the time.
Bidding for Glasnost: Sotheby's 1988 Auction in Moscow features raw video footage of the full sale led by Simon de Pury; new interviews with the organizers and ten of the participating artists; a virtual reality installation that transports visitors to the original venue to witness the event; and press reviews and archival documents that together reveal the contradictory perspectives which shroud the auction to this day. The exhibition also includes a number of original lots from the 1988 sale, such as early twentieth century avant-garde works by Alexander Rodchenko and Varvara Stepanova; Fundamental Lexicon (1986) by Grisha Brushkin, which was the highest-selling contemporary work; and a piece by Ilya Kabakov—All About Him (1971)—that was bought by Alfred Taubman—then chairman of Sotheby’s board of directors—and presented to the USSR’s Ministry of Culture as the founding artwork for a future museum of contemporary art.