1960s UNOFFICIAL ART
KOMAR Vitaly Anatolyevich (1943) and MELAMID Alexander Danilovich (1945) Urban Angels. Diptych. 1993. Oxidized steel, oil, stencil. 92 × 71 (each of two parts)
The artists of the duo Komar and Melamid are known primarily as the inventors of Sots Art, which they coined in 1972. The term itself is a combination of “pop-art” and “socialist realism”. But unlike American pop-art, which drove advertising to the point of absurdity, Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid came up with the idea of bringing symbols of ideological propaganda to the point of absurdity. However, here it was not even necessary to try hard, since communist propaganda in the USSR was always half a step away from kitsch. Komar and Melamid are the authors of the programmatic works “The Birth of Socialist Realism” (a palimpsest of “The Origin of Painting” by Eduard Daege), “Double Self-Portrait” and others. Komar and Melamid are among the top five most expensive artists of postwar unofficial art, after in 2010 their painting “Meeting of A. Solzhenitsyn and H. Böll at the dacha of M. Rostropovich” was sold at Phillips for more than $ 1,000,000.
Komar and Melamid were among the organizers of the Bulldozer exhibition. After the beating at the vacant lot in Belyaevo, the authorities stepped up administrative pressure on the troublemaking artists. Komar and Melamid were expelled from the Union of Artists of the USSR. Three years later they emigrated. First to Israel, then to the United States. In America Komar and Melamid continued their merry performance. They generously slapped public taste. For example, they were the first buyers of Andy Warhol's soul as part of the “Buying Souls” performance.
Since 2003, the artists have been working apart. The duo has broken up.
But we still have 1993 in the picture. Komar and Melamid are still working together. And Urban Angels is their very famous subject. Its author's versions can be found in museums (for example, in the Moscow Museum of Modern Art) and in private collections (Alexander Kronik’s and others). The angel with a lute can be considered as the patron saint of the arts. And the angel with a book — the patron saint of knowledge. That is the union of science and art, a metaphor of inspiration and creativity.
VULOKH Igor Alexandrovich (1938–2012) Fragment. 1962. Hardboard, oil. 58 × 48
The 1960s artist Igor Vulokh is one of the record-breakers of the outgoing year. Prices for his work doubled in 2021. And some of his works at auctions were even sold three times higher than estimated expectations. These bursts were not for the entire Vulokh in general, but for the works of the museum level. To which unequivocally belongs our “Fragment”.
The rarest case. Vulokh’s oil of 1962. A masterpiece of meditative conventionality. Exhibited and published. With impeccable provenance (the work comes from the artist's family). “Fragment” has participated in several museum exhibitions. In particular, it can be found on page 120 of the catalogue of the 2008 Moscow exhibition “Paintings and Graphics by Igor Vulokh”.
ZVEREV Anatoly Timofeevich (1931–1986) Spotted horse. 1986. Oil on hardboard. 80 × 122
In 1986, Zverev lived and worked in a Khrushchev building on Malakhitovaya Street at the home of his friend and fellow member of the city committee group “21” — artist Viktor Kazarin. In the three-roomed small-sized apartment, which was then both a home for a large family and a studio, Zverev was gaining strength and inspiration. Zverev felt good there. The emaciated artist seemed to come back to life. He regained his interest in painting and his thirst for experimentation. During this period, Zverev not only made joint works with Kazarin (signed KZ or KAZ), but also separately his own — signed only by the initials AZ. As a rule, joint works were large — a meter and a half, and independent — about a meter. And “Spotted horse” is just one of those, purely Zverev works. After the death of the artist, who had only a few months to live, Viktor Kazarin arranged several exhibitions in memory of his friend. This work also participated in some of them, which is noted in the expert opinion of Valery Silaev. “Spotted horse” is a touching, personal, naive, and confessional piece. This is probably a mental return to the childhood of the artist who had seen a lot. The painting has an unquestionable collector's value.
NEMUKHIN Vladimir Nikolaevich (1925–2016) Dedication to Paul Cézanne. 1998. Wood, toning. Pedestal 28 × 28. Height 20 cm
The sculptural dedication to Paul Cézanne was first made by the artist Vladimir Nemukhin in 1983. The work was so well loved by collectors that the artist returned to the subject twice. In 1998, the dedication to Cézanne was made of wood and cast in bronze.
Why Cézanne — and suddenly cubes with pyramids? It is a tribute to the innovation of the great post-impressionist, who went beyond Cubism and Fauvism. The cubes with the sphere and the pyramid are an appeal to the primary symbols, to the foundations of his “new vision”, an appeal to the primitive basic elements from which the paintings of Cézanne and his many followers became woven. Cézanne managed to achieve maximum laconism, ruthlessly cutting off everything superfluous, while remaining within the framework of figurative painting. It is known that Cézanne's discoveries have strongly influenced the optics of the Russian avant-garde artists, members of the “Jack of Diamonds” and others. That is, Nemukhin's composition is not only a dialogue with postimpressionism, but also a logical bridge from the “second avant-garde” to the first.
SVESHNIKOV Boris Petrovich (1927–1998) Farewell. 1992. Oil on canvas. 90 × 70
Attentive spectators have noticed that the drawing “Farewell” just exhibited and the painting “Farewell” presented today have a common plot. This is one and the same scene, embodied in a drawing and in painting. The drawing is not a sketch. It is complete, meticulous, multi-piece. Although Sveshnikov did make sketches, few have seen them. But here everything is more interesting. Because chronologically the drawing “Farewell” was made five years after the painting “Farewell”. The paper — in 1997, and the oil — in 1992. Such an unusual sequence.
One thing is clear. Returning to the same theme in the schedule testifies to its high significance for Sveshnikov. The thought did not let him go. The subject is complicated. But Sveshnikov does not have easy ones. The worlds he created in his head were a sublimation of his difficult experiences: the camps he went through, his attempts to survive and not go mad. Today Boris Sveshnikov is one of the most sought-after nonconformist artists. Auction prices of the Costakis favorite's paintings and graphics have more than doubled in a year. This is one of the authors we recommend for inclusion in an investment collection.
YAKOVLEV Mikhail Nikolaevich (1880–1942) Nude. 1926. Oil on canvas. 61 × 50
YAKOVLEV Vladimir Igorevich (1934–1998) Red flower. Late 1960s — early 1970s. Gouache, tempera on paper. 50 × 50
Yakovlev and Yakovlev. Impressionist grandfather and outstanding expressionist grandson. Many of us remember the name of Mikhail Yakovlev from the biography of Vladimir Yakovlev. Mikhail Yakovlev studied at the Stroganov School, then in St. Petersburg with Repin. He participated in exhibitions of the “Union of Russian Artists”, worked as a theater artist. Yakovlev's grandfather emigrated to France in 1923. But then, surprisingly, decided to return to the USSR. And he chose the most “suitable” year — 1937. Biographers agree that Yakovlev senior was saved by a miracle.
Well, the grandson, Vladimir Yakovlev, needs no introduction. Fate decided that he became one of the main figures of post-war unofficial art. In the outgoing year, Yakovlev’s graphics several times took a mark of 1.5 million rubles. The prices of individual works showed phenomenal growth. Yakovlev is still one of the favorites of the Russian intelligentsia. We noticed that this year his works were bought from us by doctors, scientists, and successful businessmen.
VOLIGAMSI Rinat (1968) In the shadow. 2003. Oil and acrylic on canvas. 80 × 67
The star of Rinat Voligamsi lit up literally before our eyes. In just twenty years, a young author from Bashkiria has become an artist of all-Russian fame. His recognition, importantly, is expressed not only in awards and exhibitions but also in a wide demand among collectors. Obsessed people do not just cluck their tongues, but vote with the ruble. Hundreds of thousands of roubles.
Voligamsi's paintings are not just the absurdist charades they seem at first sight. They are works with three or four levels of meaning. Pure existential philosophy. You can pore over them endlessly, trying to unravel them and find more and more metaphors. And “In the shadow” is one of the best examples of Voligamsi's enigmatic painting from a particularly valuable period. Museum level. And a great rarity. Do not miss it.
SUROVTSEVA Elena Mikhailovna (1952) Lying nude. Bronze, patina. 50 × 30 × 29
Romantic female images are a favourite theme in the work of Elena Surovtseva. Her sculptures are characterized by a special emotionality. Complex poses, complex energy. This is a conversation about the philosophical loneliness of man in the world, about the aspiration for self-discovery, about the incognizability of nature. A large and very effective plastic from the famous contemporary sculptor. The height is 30 cm and weight about 25 kg. A note for collectors: Elena Surovtseva's works are in the collections of the Russian Museum, the Tretyakov Gallery and the Moscow Museum of Modern Art.