1960s–1970s UNOFFICIAL ART

NESTEROVA Natalia Igorevna (1944) Walnuts. 2007. Oil on canvas. 132 × 127

Pacifying, contemplative, sybaritic, philosophical Nesterova. The sun is setting. The evening descends. A couple looks out from the veranda at a cozy Mediterranean town, whose houses are scattered along the mountainside. Grapes and chopped walnuts are on the table. Much has been accomplished, and how much good is yet to come.

The work of the Amazon of the left Moscow Union of Artists is executed with the fantastic quality peculiar to Nesterova. Masterfully conveyed light. Textured, convex details stretching beyond the plane of the canvas. Exemplary painting, museum level.

PETROV Arkady Ivanovich (1940) Buttons. 1989–1990. Canvas on plywood, tempera, buttons. 150 × 150

Lenin and Stalin. Bright faces of the toilers from Soviet posters. The hard march forward under the banners. And all this is studded with the buttons of Soviet army overcoats. It seems that the work is deliberately made at the junction of primitive, sots-art and Moscow conceptualism. And there is no telling what is more in it.

The main theme of the 1970s artist Arkady Petrov is the story of the little man in Soviet and post-Soviet society through the prism of mass culture. He often uses grotesque forms bordering on kitsch. But this does not come out on purpose. The simple propaganda tools which were used to bring up the little man were also kitschy. The source of inspiration for many of Petrov's works were the labels of consumer goods, the Soviet postcards that were sold in the kiosks, photographs, calendars and other “mass culture”. “Izvestia” (News) without truth. And “Pravda” (Truth) without news. Hypocritical posters and slogans everywhere. And banners in which there was not the slightest bit of sincerity.

By the way, Petrov knew well the price of Soviet hypocrisy. After his first solo exhibition, he was knocked out for several years. In an interview with The Art Newspaper the artist described those events as follows: “The first exhibition in 1984 was on Vavilova Street. It turned out to be very difficult to get there, and I've been struggling for a long, long time. And when it was opened, I was shaking with anxiety: will they hang me or not? Because when the officials from the Ministry of Culture came, they took half of the pictures, all of them naked, off the walls at once. But the most amazing thing is that afterwards the Russian Museum immediately bought what they had removed. It sounds like there is one government and one bureaucracy... I am so grateful to the Russian Museum that there are no words for it! So they kept one of my works — a nude one — but told me to put on underwear. I rewrote it overnight, but they still took it down, and now it's hanging in America, in the Norton Dodge Museum. And in general, you know, these curators — women from the Ministry of Culture with bags of sausages (and these women decided my fate — I was so ashamed) — in general, they achieved their: I had a nervous breakdown, and four years I could not pick up even a pencil, did not work. But they did a good job.”

Today, Petrov's works are in the country's leading museums (the Tretyakov Gallery, the Russian Museum) and foreign museum collections, including the Norton Dodge Museum, the Ludwig Museum and others. The works of the artist participated in the first and last auction of Sotheby's in Moscow in 1988. Our “Buttons” were also bought at Sotheby's, only in 2008, at a price peak for Russian art. Actually, it was that time when “Buttons” established an auction record for the artist's work, which has not been beaten up to this day. And this is no coincidence. Simply in front of us is one of the most striking works by Arkady Petrov of the especially valuable period. The painting has participated in exhibitions, published in catalogues and has an undoubted museum value.

SITNIKOV Vasily Yakovlevich (1915–1987) A figure. 1974. Oil on paper. 86 × 61

Vasily “Yaklich” Sitnikov is a legendary figure of unofficial post-war art. Founder of the informal “Sitnikov Academy”, teacher of Vladimir Yakovlev, Vladimir Weisberg and Alexander Kharitonov.

This is a find. This is the case when the work of the famous artist of the sixties comes up for auction not from an auction, not from a gallery, not from the market, but from an old collection. They say about such things — “unseen”.

Note the inscription at the top: “1974-IX-20 Friday. Lesson to Vladimir Orlov”. What does it mean? It was a technique of teaching numerous students. Sitnikov was giving a theme. And, when the student went the wrong way, he himself took up the brush. Or rather, the floor brush. A succession of precise movements — and an amazingly beautiful figure emerged through the haze of brush strokes. Such work later served as a role model for students. About all this it is possible to read in detail in Valery Silaev's examination. The drawing is signed. On the reverse side, it is written in red pen: “Sitnikov Vasily Yakovlich 1915“. The expert notes the uniqueness of the drawings from the series “Lessons”, calls this work a monument to the Moscow unofficial art, which may have museum value. True luck for collectors!

GROSITSKY Andrey Borisovich (1934–2017) Pincers. 1994. Oil on canvas. 100 × 90

A spectacular, exemplary work by the artist of the seventies, the metaphysics of the subject world Andrey Grositsky. We are facing a “poetry of things” of the highest level. Everything is good here: the subject, the color scheme, the perfect meter size for a private collection. Nothing to add or subtract. Andrey Borisovich Grositsky was an artist of the orbit of unofficial art. He exhibited at a resonant exhibition at the House of Culture pavilion at the VDNKh in 1975, and for many years afterwards he took part in the exhibitions of the liberal “city committee of graphic artists” at 28, Malaya Gruzinskaya Street. Grositsky was one of the few artists of the seventies who were lucky enough to live to see recognition. He had the opportunity to see his personal exhibition at the Tretyakov Gallery and was present at a glamorous retrospective at the Museum of Moscow. Today collectors fight for the works of Grositsky, his paintings are hits of our auctions. And “Pincers” have all chances to become a real decoration of any collection.

PIVOVAROV Viktor Dmitrievich (1937) Blue loaf. From the series “Trunks and Laughter”. 2008. Oil on canvas. 50 × 75

Viktor Pivovarov is one of the key figures in the internationally recognized Moscow conceptualism. In the sixties, he was a member of the “Sretensky Boulevard Circle” or “Sretensky Boulevard Group”, which included Kabakov, Yankilevsky, Sooster, the writer Sorokin and others. Like many of his colleagues, Pivovarov earned his living as a book designer (he was the creator of the logo for the children's magazine “Funny Pictures”), and for his circle he made conceptual works with “eidos”, situation comedies, and complex and daring metaphors.

Back in the days of the late USSR, Pivovarov left for Czechoslovakia. And for many years now he has been living and working in Prague. His pictorial language has evolved, but Pivovarov is still recognizable. If you have seen his works from the 1970s, you will easily recognize the current ones — the style is the same.

And the same enthusiasm.

Why is the loaf blue? Conceptualists like the viewer to puzzle his own mind, it's part of the art game. But some clues were left by the artist. Blue is a rare color in inanimate nature. The sky and water, in which it is reflected, are blue. The blue sky acts as a counterbalance to earthly existence. And the blue loaf is a metaphor for “heavenly food” and simultaneously a symbol of earthly absurdity. Nothing further is invented — improvise!




BURLIUK David Davidovich (1882–1967) Boy or girl? 1940–1960s. Oil on canvas. 20.5 × 25.5

This is the late Burlyuk, of the American period. But it's the kind that admirers of the Russian avant-garde appreciate. It is believed that already in the United States, in emigration, Burliuk seemed to be catching up on the years that passed. He returned to the ideas which he had had in Russia in the years before the Revolution, but which were not realized in the turmoil of events.

A boy or a girl is a peasant story-anecdote, one of the favorite and repeated in the work of Burliuk. The woman looks and tries to understand — who is in front of her, a stallion or a mare. The “oily” work, as Valery Silaev writes in his examination, comes from the New York collection of a collector and friend of Burliuk. The ideal piece for a large collection. Due to its size, it will not be difficult to find a place for it.