SOOSTER Ülo Ilmar (1924–1970) Junipers. 1963. Hardboard, oil, glue, sand. 41 × 61

Juniper is one of the two main and most valuable themes in the work of the 1960s artist Ülo Sooster. The artist said that once he dreamed of a mission — to have time to draw 40 thousand junipers. A mystical task. In general, junipers grew in Estonia, in his homeland, on the island of Hiiumaa. But over time, the juniper tree turned into an abstract image — an existential primordial symbol, a reflection of the unconscious. Therefore, Sooster’s junipers almost never form an earthly landscape. This is usually an abstract alien species.

Ülo Sooster moved to Moscow on Krasin Street in 1956 after seven years in the Karaganda camps, where he was serving a sentence for an anti-Soviet article. A graduate of the Tartu Art Institute was accused of planning a hijacking of an airplane in order to escape abroad. In Moscow, he became the soul of a circle of like-minded people, now known as the Sretensky Boulevard group, which included Yuri Sobolev-Nolev, Ilya Kabakov, Vladimir Yankilevsky, Viktor Pivovarov, and others. He earned his living as an illustrator at the publishing house “Znanie”, but worked mostly into the desk. His most famous exhibition was Manege-1962, where the chief “art critic” Khrushchev made a demonstrative blast at the abstractionists. They say the secretary general threatened Sooster with places not too far away, but was embarrassed to learn that Sooster had already been to the camp. Ülo Sooster died young, at 46, in 1970. He remained a legend of unofficial art and is one of the most expensive sixties.

Sooster paintings of junipers are a rarity on the market. And even more so for such a high class. It is a pity that the photo does not convey how filigree this picture was made. The silhouettes of the figures are recessed into the surface. What we have before us is a complex, multi-piece textural work — one of Sooster's finest examples of experimental, innovative painting.

NAKHOVA Irina Isaevna (1955) Windows. 1987. Canvas, wood, oil. 120 × 120

The Amazon of Moscow Conceptualism. Participant of the only Moscow Sotheby's in 1988. Winner of the Kandinsky Prize 2013. The artist who represented Russian art at the Venice Biennale 2015. And one of the most expensive female artists with an auction record of $ 78,000.

There were many fateful coincidences on her way to conceptualism. Nakhova's mother worked at Detgiz, the fiefdom of unofficial artists making money in book graphics. As a teenager, Nakhova often visited the studio of conceptualist Viktor Pivovarov. And her tutors for admission to the Polygraphic Institute were the not yet famous inventors of Sots Art, Komar and Melamid.

A few years later, Irina Nakhova would begin to turn her apartment into regular total installations. With a complete repainting and turning her own dwelling into a complex art object. 1987, the year of our artwork, is the most valuable period in Nakhova's work. It was the year when she made her fifth total installation, “The Room” — for the first time not in an apartment, but in an exhibition space. Soon she will have a landmark Sotheby's for an artist from the USSR and a subsequent international career.

“Windows” is an example of “two-layer painting” invented by Nakhova. This is a complex, composite work, two-layered, in which the front painterly structure is placed above the base frame. Words are not an easy way to describe it, but it is better to see it on video. The piece is signed, dated and absolutely museum class.

YUKIN Vladimir Yakovlevich (1920–2000) Autumn time. 1974. Oil on cardboard. 51 × 69

Of the three Britov-Kokurin-Yukin — the main artists of the Vladimir school — paintings by Vladimir Yukin are the least likely to appear at auction. And we do not remember such a level at all.

A man of a very difficult fate. Yukin was drafted into the army from the Ivanovo Art School, was taken prisoner in the first months of the war, spent almost four years in German camps, after his release he passed a special police check, was again sent to the front and finished the war. He liberated Prague, participated in the battles of Breslau, and was awarded medals.

After the war, the record of captivity did not give a chance to continue studying at Moscow and Leningrad institutes. Yukin entered the painting faculty of the Lviv Institute of Applied and Decorative Arts. In 1959 the artist moved to Vladimir. And four years later the name of Yukin and his friends made a stir in Moscow. It was 1964 when the “Exhibition of the Artists of Vladimir, Mstera, Gus-Khrustalny” was held, after which people in the USSR started talking about the phenomenon of the Vladimir school. Some of them were enthusiastic. The others were critical. Expert Nadezhda Sevastyanova recalls: “After the exhibition in 1964, the magazine "Artist" published a devastating article by art critic Tatyana Nordshtein "In the power of the stamp", in which she accused the Vladimir artists of being "averaged and standard", "deviating from the diversity of the world", in a "banal depiction of nature"”. Today, when they read it, they shrug their shoulders. But in Soviet times, the press was a lever that could easily ruin a person's career.

And such attempts were repeated many times. In 1960, forty-year-old Yukin headed the art studio at the Vladimir Tractor Plant. And in 1962, a reporting exhibition of the students was opened. Unfortunately, a regional party meeting was held nearby, and the exhibition caught the eye of high-ranking participants. Yukin himself said what happened next: “The exhibition was immediately banned, our hall was sealed up. The paintings were removed from the walls and stacked in a pile. They lay like that for a long time, until a specially summoned expert from the Ministry of Culture of the RSFSR arrived to evaluate the professional and ideological level of the paintings. Almost all the works presented at the exhibition were recognized as formalistic. At that time, this word was a terrible curse. I was immediately fired from my job, the studio was closed”. Yet another reminder for those who dream of living like it was in the USSR again.

However, time puts everything in its place. No one will ever remember the  names of the party leaders, as well as the expert of the Ministry of Culture. Yukin's paintings have long adorned museum collections, and collectors are still hunting for his works.




BULATOV Erik Vladimirovich (1933) A road sign. 1990. Paper, colored pencils. 26.5 × 22.5 (in light)

Erik Bulatov is one of the most famous and expensive Russian artists in the world. One of the key figures in Moscow conceptualism. His painting “The Glory of the CPSU” in 2008 was sold for more than 2 million dollars. In 1960–1970-ies Erik Bulatov belonged to the conventional “group of Sretensky Boulevard”, which included Kabakov, Yankilevsky, Pivovarov and others. He made his living from book graphics, while he himself developed his innovative format of “text picture”, combining text and graphic symbolism.

Before us is the original graphics with a rather specific symbolic message, written by Erik Bulatov back in 1990. The “No Parking” sign, hanging in the middle of the gray haze, is punctuated with “Go Straight” arrows. And in the distance the sun of a bright future rises. Meaning: “Go for it! Break through! And all will be well”. In short, an ever-present theme about the price of happiness beyond the horizon.


KHARITONOV Alexander Vasilievich (1931–1993) A Traveller in the Woods. 1976. Oil on canvas. 29 × 34

One of the essays rather aptly called the artist preacher of good. He is one of the few people of the sixties who consistently dealt with a religious theme, working with the Orthodox imagery. Even Kharitonov's stylistic findings were inspired by the culture of decorating Orthodox vestments and objects of worship. What many consider Kharitonov's pointillism comes not from Paul Signac, but from the tradition of embroidery fabrics with pearls, beads and decoration with precious stones.

Kharitonov was close to the Lianozovo group, participated in apartment exhibitions and occasional high-profile exhibitions of “other art”, such as “Beekeeping” in 1975.

“A Traveler in the Woods”, 1976, is a delicate, intricate painting made with careful dotted strokes. It is a picture-parable: a figure with a halo moves along the road to the temple. An exemplary plot, a particularly valuable period, a real decoration of a private collection.

VECHTOMOV Nikolai Evgenievich (1923–2007) Convergence. 1981. Oil on cardboard. 40 × 48

Nikolai Vechtomov is a member of the Lianozov group (which included Oscar Rabin, Vladimir Nemukhin, Evgeny Kropivnitsky, etc.). He is a veteran. And, it is believed that the bright “flashes” in his surrealistic paintings are a sublimation of the explosions seen in the war. There is no well-established term for the distinctive style and direction of Nikolai Vechtomov. He is referred to either lyrical abstractionism, or biomorphic surrealism, or cosmism. The artist is very recognizable, spectacular. And our painting “Convergence” is made, moreover, in a rare color scheme — golden brown. Like Alexander Kharitonov, the artist participated in “Beekeeping” at VDNKh in 1975 and in a number of other milestone exhibitions of unofficial art.