SHULZHENKO Vasily Vladimirovich (1949) Rural dump. 2018. Oil on canvas. 120 × 90

We take risks. Keep children away from the screens. Vasily Shulzhenko. A terrible picture. A mixture of itinerant movement with undiluted existential horror of the level of Edvard Munch and Alfred Kubin. Yeah. There will certainly be something to think about and something to talk about.

No matter how you treat Shulzhenko, it's hard not to agree that he is a brave artist. And that's rare now. In times of dense propaganda and pseudo-patriotic “forcing” with foam at the mouth to tackle such “unsightly” topics, and press on social anthropology — you should not be timid. It is very difficult not to stray off course in conditions of mass rejection, when you are accused of Russophobia. But Shulzhenko seems to be at ease. Exhibits at “all-guilty” Chubais in Rusnano. Sells his paintings to spiritless America. And continues to “maliciously slander”. Shulzhenko's program oil “The Kybo” for a significant part of the audience remains a fright, a cruel slander on Russian reality. Although, I think, time will pass — and essays will be written on this picture. There will be more than one page of philosophical content in it.

Based on the author’s knowledge of the topic, an unprepared viewer may get the impression that Shulzhenko is familiar with his monstrous characters firsthand. He is either himself a drunkard from the lower classes, or a researcher who dissects the “bottom”, like Uncle Gilyay on Khitrovka. But no. In one of his rare interviews, Shulzhenko directly explained this collision: “I have never lived among the people I portray and have not tried to get into their souls. As a child, I was a mama's son, I did not know either the army or the zone. My characters are to me like savages to Cook. I saw enough of them in my childhood, when I lived in a country house near Kasimov. They both scared and fascinated me. All this splashed out on the canvas much later, with the beginning of perestroika”. I will add that 71-year-old Vasily Vladimirovich Shulzhenko is quite a prosperous person. A Muscovite, a graduate of the Polygraphic Institute, a participant in national and all-Union exhibitions in the USSR, a member of the Union of artists with forty years of experience and even not from the clip of unofficial art. At least in the reference book «Other Art» there is no mention of him (which is surprising to me).

Today's picture is called “Rural dump”. Unexpected? Why? The dump is understandable. And who inhabits it? There is a Satyr grandfather in the background. And who is in the front? A witch? A zombie? And while we were racking our brains, a well-known contemporary artist entered our office and gasped: “Well, this is Mother the damp earth!” The picture is not only with a powerful subtext, but also a virtuoso technical performance. Look at the edge of the forest in the background. A real old school. Few artists paint like that today.

Shulzhenko. The museum level. Incredible strength. For the brave.

PURYGIN Leonid Anatolyevich (1951–1995) Godiva. 1989. Oil on canvas. 66 × 89

SLEPYSHEV Anatoly Stepanovich (1932–2016) Godiva. 1981. Oil on canvas. 50 × 70

Many immediately learned the plot. Everything is obvious. And Purygin even has an exact indication of the act of Lady Godiva from Coventry. This is a medieval legend about a beautiful English countess who made a sacrifice, disdaining shame for the good of her subjects. And it was like this. The year is 1040. The city of Coventry, 150 km from London. The local Earl Leofric imposed exorbitant taxes, under the burden of which his subjects languished. People sent signals to the authorities, but they did not respond. And then the earl's wife, Lady Godiva, stood up for the people. She asked to reduce the mandatory payments. And Earl Leofric, in a drunken rage, set a condition — yes, he would abolish taxes altogether if his virtuous wife rode through the city streets naked. He decided to take it weakly, since the condition was obviously impossible. But Godiva was ready for anything for the sake of the townspeople, and she did it. According to the same legend, realizing what it cost her, the grateful residents of the city closed the shutters and did not look at the countess's humiliation. And the Earl kept his word. Taxes were abolished. And they all lived happily ever after. A beautiful story. It is a pity if unreliable.

Whether it was or was not — it does not matter. It is important that the demand for justice was so high that the legend of Lady Godiva survived the centuries and left a noticeable mark on culture and art. The plot formed the basis for hundreds of paintings. But the most famous, perhaps, is the painting by the Pre-Raphaelite John Collier “Lady Godiva”. In British Coventry (this is the unfortunate city that was sacrificed in 1941 to hide information about the break-in of the German Enigma encryption machine), an annual celebration is still held in honor of Godiva's deed. There is a monument to her there. And the city flag of Coventry is decorated with the image of a beautiful naked horsewoman.

Well, okay, we are all about others, when we have before us two distinctive “Godivas” from the first names of Russian unofficial art. From Leonid Purygin and Anatoly Slepyshev. Both are participants of the only Moscow Sotheby's in 1988.

Purygin is perhaps the most expensive artist of naive art. The auction record is $ 237,000. Lenya the Genius from Nara. Self-taught. Behind him — an attempt at suicide, hospitals, a monstrous personal tragedy. And, of course, art as a philosophical outlet, as an attempt to penetrate into another dimension in order to escape from the absurd and cruel world. Purygin died at 44 — young, and even in the midst of the dashing nineties. But, surprisingly, the artist managed to plunge into the rays of glory. After Sotheby's in '88, he worked in America. He had catalogs, exhibitions. And important collections. «Godiva» by the author’s standards is a bright, positive thing. A real decoration of the collection.

Anatoly Slepyshev's painting deserves the same characteristic. By the way, do not be confused by the scratched letter “T” in his signature: his “T” means Tolya. What about the painting? One of the best Slepyshevs that we have seen at our auctions. Here everything is characteristic, recognizable, plus a successful theme — just everything that is appreciated by collectors.

During the Soviet era, his paintings were heavily criticized. In the late 1970s, vigilant officials removed his painting from a collective exhibition in Istra, almost for pornography. But young art critics were not timid and were able to defend the exhibition, in which Weisberg, Zhilinsky and others participated. It turns out that it was possible with a firm position. However, Slepyshev did not belong to the dissident circle of unofficial art. He studied under Deineka, since the late 1960s he was a member of the Union of Artists. But at the same time he was in the clip of the sixties, exhibited with other nonconformists in the pavilion “House of Culture” at VDNKh (1975), participated in the Izmailovo exhibition and in apartment exhibitions in the studio of Mikhail Odnoralov. Slepyshev's auction record is $ 45,000, at Sotheby's, for a three-meter painting in a prosperous 2007.

RABIN Oscar Yakovlevich (1928–2018) We live in Priluki. 1965. Oil on canvas. 80 × 99.5

Why in Priluki, and not in Lianozovo, which is strongly associated with the name of Rabin? Priluki is a village on the banks of the Oka river in the Moscow region. There was the house of Vladimir Nemukhin, inherited from his parents. Since the late 1950s, every summer Nemukhin invited his friends from the Lianozovo group to the sketches. This is how Nemukhin himself told about those times: “Rabin came to me in Priluki since 1957, we went two kilometers for milk together, talked about life, about the problems of art. In general, over time, I created a kind of Barbizon in Priluki: besides Rabin, I invited Lydia Masterkova, Nikolai Vechtomov, Dmitry Plavinsky there. For some time, Yuri Zlotnikov, Boris Sveshnikov and Alexander Kharitonov lived there. In Priluki lived Fyodor Fyodorovich Platov, artist of the 1930s, Gritsai, Viktor Popkov. In general, even if this was not Tarusa with Krymov and Borisov-Musatov, but the place was also culturally significant. Priluki with its beaches and dry sand had a reputation as a wellness destination. No wonder everyone I brought there loved it. And the nature of Priluki is very peculiar: pine trees, dunes. The place seems to be non-Russian in nature. It is no coincidence, they say, that Grabar did not like Priluki for this very reason.

So. Oscar Rabin. Priluki. 1965. There are 9 years left before the bulldozer exhibition. And 13 years before Rabin was expelled from the USSR and deprived of citizenship. In the meantime, there is light in the window, a curtain, comfort. Peace and quiet. Rare for Rabin.




BURLIUK David Davidovich (1882–1967) Charleston, South Carolina. 1946. Paper, black pencil, watercolor, whitewash. 28.7 × 39.8

Burliuk is the father of Russian futurism, the man who discovered Mayakovsky's talent, one of the leaders of the Russian avant-garde of the 1910s. Our drawing is already an American Burliuk. A light positive thing, specially made in a bright “postcard” style with the techniques of naive art. Burliuk made such a schedule during numerous trips to the United States. Burliuk made such drawings during his numerous travels in the United States.

What is remarkable about Charleston? Since 2011, it has been voted America's friendliest and most hospitable city several times by leading national travel magazines. It is the largest city in South Carolina (although not the capital). Today the IT sector is rapidly developing there, some kind of special polite police have been created. South Carolina is considered a conservative agricultural state. Indeed, over 70% have just voted for Trump. Once upon a time, South Carolina was the first to raise a fuss and decided to secede from the United States in protest against the abolition of slavery. It was with the riot in Charleston that the Civil War began. The houses that Burliuk painted are part of the historical buildings that can be seen today. They are 200 years old, or even more.

Passepartout, frame, glass. Expertise by V. S. Silaev


VOLIGAMSI Rinat (1968) From a travel notebook. 2004. Canvas, acrylic, oil. 40 × 75

Another mystery painting or conceptual charade from Rinat Voligamsi. “Barley-brick”, “puzzle” against the background of a 1950s car, similar to the “Moskvich-401”. Absurdist retro-realism.

Voligamsi has had a stunning career since the early 2000s. We can say almost incredible at the present time. For 20 years, the artist has gone from an unknown graduate of the Faculty of Architecture from Ufa to the status of an artist with a name, a nominee for the Kandinsky Prize, who is represented by strong galleries in Moscow and collected by knowledgeable people. The general public knows him from the absurdist “Harms” pictures. The grandmother feeds the dinosaur pigeons, the soldiers salute the general's empty trousers with stripes, and the stars on the soldiers' caps form the constellation Ursa Major. The artist's works are loved not only by collectors, but also by ordinary users of social networks. Many of Voligamsi's plots have become a kind of Internet memes. Which is in itself an unconditional success criterion for the 2020s.