The Avant Garde Comes to the United States

To collect art in the Soviet Union demanded not only a strong sense of history, but also great courage. The Kolodzei Collection, started by Tatiana Kolodzei in Moscow during the 1960s at the height of the Cold War, belongs to the major current of Russian alternative, underground culture, expressed by an opposition to a closed society during Soviet times. Today the Kolodzei Collection is one of the world's largest private art collections, with over 7,000 pieces by more than 300 artists from Russia and the former Soviet Union, chronicling four decades of nonconformist art from the post-Stalinist era to the present.

Tatiana Kolodzei and her daughter, Natalia, started the Kolodzei Art Foundation in the U.S. in 1991 to promote Russian contemporary art through exhibitions in museums and cultural centers, publications and lectures. It provides an opportunity for American scholars to advance their knowledge of nonconformist art, and for the general public to gain a greater understanding of the turbulent past of the Soviet Union. This is especially important now that a new generation, knowing little of the Cold War and the Soviet system, has come of age in both countries.

A recent exhibition project is Moscow - New York = Parallel Play. Selections from the Kolodzei Art Foundation Collection of Russian and Eastern European Art, first shown in Moscow in 2007 and then in the Chelsea Art Museum in New York in 2008, featured over 100 works by nearly 60 artists from the Kolodzei Collection. The exhibit has works by leading Soviet-era nonconformist artists including Eric Bulatov, Ilya Kabakov, Vitaly Komar and Alex Melamid, Dmitri Krasnopevtsev, Rimma and Valeriy Gerlovin, Ernst Neizvestny, and Dmitri Plavinsky, as well as artists of the younger generation.

Besides introducing the American audience to Russian art, the work of the Kolodzei Art Foundation highlights Russia as a vibrant country, and part of the global art scene. -

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