The Geogian Avant-garde: 1900–1930s. Pirosmani, Gudiashvili, Kakabadze and other artists. From museums and privita collections.

08.12.2016 – 12.03.2017

Private Collections

For the first time in Russia, The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts presents such an extensive exhibition of artworks by Georgian artists of the first third of the 20th century. Visitors will be able to see works by Niko Pirosmanashvili (Pirosmani) (1863–1918), Vladimir (Lado) Gudiashvili (1896–1980), David Kakabadze (1889–1952), Kirill Zdanevich (1892–1969), Alexander Bazhbeuk-Melikov (Melikyan) (1891–1966), Elene Akhvlediani (1901–1975), Irakli Gamrekeli (1894–1943), Petre Otskheli (1907–1937), and Zygmunt Waliszewski (1897–1936). The exhibition will present 200 paintings, easel drawings and theatrical decorations from major Russian and Georgian museums and private collections.

The project is meant to emphasize the importance of dialogue between the two countries whose history and culture have been inextricably linked over centuries. Georgia, particularly Tiflis, were the point of intersection of different civilizations, languages and traditions.

The exhibition is focused around the idea of displaying the rich artistic legacy of the Georgian art of the Avant-garde period.

In the early 20th century, Georgian painting, literature, music and theatre were under a considerable influence of the Avant-garde thought. Tiflis became ‘little Paris’, the center of an artistic experiment. The city had an eventful cultural life: artistic cafés organized numerous poetic tournaments; Kote Marjanishvili, stage director of the Moscow Art Theatre and founder of the Free Theater in Moscow, collaborated with young artists in Georgia – Petre Otskheli and Irakli Gamrekeli. Tiflis was the place where Vladimir Mayakovsky and Osip Mandestam performed, the place that became home for the poets Vasily Kamensky and Aleksei Kruchenykh. The Conservatory of Tiflis had Heinrich Neuhaus among its professors. Here the philosopher George Gurdjieff established the first Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man and the School of Collective Gymnastics where everyone could enroll to study ‘sacred dances’ and ‘sacred gymnastics’.

In the 1910s, David Kakabadze, brothers Zdanevich, Alexander Bazhbeuk-Melikyan and others left Georgia to pursue their studies in Saint Petersburg and in Moscow. They became active members of the art scene of the capital cities, established close relations with representatives of the Russian Avant-Garde, participated in exhibitions and disputes, and addressed their public manifestos. In 1912, Mikhail Le Dantu from St. Petersburg and Futurist poet from Tiflis Ilya Zdanevich made Russian and later European audience ‘discover’ Pirosmani’s art. They were the first to correlate Pirosmani’s works with those by Henry Rousseau, who, in the early 1900s united Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, André Derain and many others behind him. The ‘new generation’ of Georgian artists perceived Pirosmani’s artworks as an example of pure art free from ‘academic inertness’, if not as source of inspiration.

In the early 1920s, many Georgian artists traveled to Paris where they met André Derain, Amedeo Modigliani, Albert Marquet, Fernand Léger, Léonard Foujita, as well as Russian Avant-Garde artists Mikhail Larionov and Natalia Goncharova. Lado Gudiashvili studied at the Académie Ranson; Kirill Zdanevich – at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. Paris hosted a number of exhibitions showcasing artworks of Georgian artists.

The intellectual life of Tiflis prospered after the sovietization of Georgia in 1921, too. The Avant-Garde experiment lasted throughout the 1920s. In March 1924, the group 'H2SO4' was founded, whose members published a magazine under the same title; in 1926, Gudiashvili returned from Paris, a year later – Kakabadze, and the poets Simon Chikovani, Titsian Tabidze and Paolo Yashvili continued to create and publish their poetry up until the late 1930s. Then, eventually, in the context of severe political repressions, open artistic experiments were ceased; personal and artistic destinies of many representatives of Georgian Avant-Garde of the early 20th century fully reflected the dramatism of Russian history.

The exhibition at The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts will take up the three floors of the Private Collections Department. At the first level, the display will feature artworks by David Kakabadze and fragments from films created with the participation of the protagonists of the exhibition ('My Granny' set by Irakli Gamrekeli, 'Salt for Svanetia' set by David Kakabadze, 'Saba' set by Lado Gudiashvili and David Kakabadze, 'Khabarda' set by Lado Gudiashvili, and other). At the second level, the viewers will see artworks by Lado Gudiashvili, Alexander Bazhbeuk-Melikov and Kirill Zdanevich. A major section of the exhibition is dedicated to the theatre – visitors will see theatrical costumes, costumes and stage decorations designs by Irakli Gamrekeli, Petre Otskheli, and Kirill Zdanevich for plays set by Kote Mardjanishvili and Alexander Akhmeteli.

The third floor is dedicated to the art of Niko Pirosmani and will include his masterpieces as well as works from the collection of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts: those of Zygmunt Waliszewski, the book '1918'.

The project was prepared with the participation of The State Russian Museum, The State Tretyakov Gallery, The State Museum of Oriental Art, Alexey Bakhrushin State Central Theatre Museum, Moscow Museum of Modern Art, the Russian State Library, The Russian State Archive of Literature and Arts. The Shalva Amiranashvili National Museum of Georgia, ‘Kartuli Pilmi’ film studio, the Ioseb Grishashvili Museum and Library, and other institutions kindly granted access to their archives for research and provided support for the project. 

A printed edition has been prepared in the framework of the project. The edition includes a number of research articles by Russian and foreign professionals, a catalogue of artworks displayed at the exhibition, and an album of colorful large-format illustrations.

Exhibition curated by: Iveta Manasherova, Elena Kamenskaya.

Original exhibition concept: Marina Loshak, Tanaz Manasherov, Mikhail Kamenskiy.


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