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The Louvre Opens Counterpoint Russian Contemporary Art, From Icon to Avant-Garde by Way of the Museum

Following the major exhibition “Holy Russia: Russian Art from the Beginnings to Peter the Great” in spring 2010, the Louvre hosts a second event in honor of the Year of Russia in France. Open October 14, 2010 to January 31, 2011.

Erik Boulatov Liberté, 1992 155 cm x 295 cm Oil on canvas Collection of Olivier and Bertrand Lorquin Photo: Jean-Alex Brunelle © Adagp, Paris 2009

Turning its focus to present-day Russia, the museum offers an overview of Russian contemporary art, still little known in France. This exhibition in the Louvre’s annual “Counterpoint” series features works by some twenty artists and artist collectives: AES + F Group, Yuri Albert, Blue Noses, Erik Boulatov, Alexander Brodsky, Olga Chernysheva, Dubossarsky and Vinogradov, Dmitri Gutov, Emilia and Ilya Kabakov, Alexei Kallima, Komar and Melamid, Valery Koshlyakov, Yuri Leiderman, Igor Makarevich and Elena Elagina, Diana Machulina, Andrei Monastyrsky, Pavel Pepperstein, Avdei Ter- Oganian, and Vadim Zakharov.

The exhibition is presented in the moats, in the Salle de la Maquette, at the keep, and in the Salle Saint-Louis, all of which provide evidence of the 12th-century fortress that predates the Louvre Palace on this site, unearthed in the course of the Grand Louvre project. These archaeological remnants reflect architectural utopias, which are echoed in the explorations of some of the artists included in the exhibition, such as Ilya Kabakov and Igor Makarevich. This underground space also stimulates fantasy and the imagination, as shown in the works of Alexei Kallima, Valery Koshlyakov and Vadim Zakharov. In fact, most of the featured artists have created a work specifically suited to the architecture of the museum. For instance, Yuri Leiderman will present a performance piece in his “Geopoetics” series at the press opening, whereas Yuri Albert will invite visitors to explore the collections blindfolded. In connection with this “Counterpoint” exhibition, the Tuileries gardens will play host to Rotunda II, an installation project by the Russian architect and sculptor Alexander Brodsky, on loan from the PERMM Museum of Contemporary Art in Perm, Russia.

All of the works included in this comprehensive exhibition— paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, videos, performance pieces—evoke Russian artistic heritage, from the icon to the museum, by way of a critical reading of the avantgarde. Already at the entrance, Erik Boulatov’s Liberté sets the tone, with a conception caught between propaganda-style aesthetics and a tribute to Delacroix. Some artists, like Pavel Pepperstein, continue to take Suprematism and Constructivism as points of reference, exemplified respectively by Malevich’s paintings and Tatlin’s Tower, the latter being an expression of a revolutionary utopia as much as it hearkens back to the Tower of Babel. Others, like Komar and Melamid, Ter-Oganian, and more recently Blue Noses, embrace an ironic vision of the history of art. In contrast, the video works of Olga Chernysheva and Dmitri Gutov offer a more poetic perspective on the museum, inspired by masterpieces in the collections of the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg and the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.

Spanning several generations, the artists featured are also exponents of various movements in the rebirth of Russian contemporary art, such as Moscow Conceptualism, the Art or Death group, and the Inspection Medical Hermeneutics group, to name a few. The two pioneering figures are Ilya Kabakov, who lives in New York, and Erik Boulatov, who makes his home in Paris, but also Andrei Monastyrksy and Igor Makarevich, all of whom were members of the Collective Actions group in the mid-1970s, at which time exhibitions of contemporary art were still prohibited in the Soviet Union.

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