13.09.2017 – 12.11.2017

Main Building

October: The Unrealized Century


Main Building

In the spring of 1955, 43-year-old Konstatin Maksimov became the first Soviet art expert to arrive in the new China. Soviet and Chinese relations were at the peak of their honeymoon phase; the friendship between the two powers was said to be as “enduring as the Himalayas, bottomless as the Pacific and unending as the Yangtze and the Volga.” The arrival of Maksimov and the establishment of “Maksimov’s Training Class” allowed Chinese painters – who had hitherto been virtually cut off from the Western world – to experience “the West” for the first time. From under Maksimov’s tutelage rose prominent figures such as Zhan Jian-jun (chairman of the China Oil Painting Society) and Jin Shang-yi (former chairman of the China Artists Association and president of the Central Academy of Fine Arts). Wu Zuo-ren, Chairman of the China Artists Association, said of Maksimov: “To gather and teach the best and most gifted is one of the greatest joys in life” – these may very well have been the most exciting years of Maksimov’s life. Though a foreign painter, he nevertheless left a direct, profound and persisting impact on the education of Social Realist art in China. He brought the creative methods and concepts of Social Realism, which became wholly infused within the Chinese art tradition. In 1957, “Maksimov’s Training Class” concluded to great acclaim, and Maksimov departed from China. 

In December of 1957, Cai Guo-Qiang was born in Quanzhou, China. As a child born into Socialism, he grew up with portraits of Lenin and Stalin hanging in his classrooms and nurtured complex feelings toward the Soviet Union and Russia that wavered between intimacy and distance. As a young man in the 1970s, Cai began to train in Russian Realist painting and experiencing through painting the white birch forests and boundless land that Russian artists had captured with their brushes. Since the 1990s, Cai has worked all over the globe, pursuing his own artistic vision in the complicated climate of the international contemporary art world while keeping in mind the time-honored cultural tradition that he has inherited.

2017 marks the centenary of the October Revolution, and Cai has come to Moscow to hold the solo exhibition Cai Guo-Qiang: October at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts. This documentary follows the artist to the Museum’s entrance, where birch trees grow from within a mountain of cradles and cribs. Through the film, viewers will see the passage of golden seasons and the coursing currents of time – illuminating the power and vastness of Russia’s past and present.

The documentary details how the artist brought local Muscovites together to create artworks through public creation events. The gunpowder explosion on white silk is like a gust of wind, sweeping across the vulnerabilities and uncertainties of the heart. The symbolic hammer and sickle found in the field of wheat appear like a crop circle, and the mirror that hangs overhead is like an eye in the sky, peering at our fates and ideals. To the left is the river of memory exploded with black gunpowder; to the right is a Utopian garden captured with color gunpowder. 

These hundred years have been part of realizing a shared story of mankind; a single artist and a single film cannot presume to summarize the ineradicable Utopian dreams and human fates. The film not only details the many stories behind the making of the exhibition, but also presents Cai’s search of the Russian painter Konstantin Maksimov. 

It hopes, through the narrative of these two artists, to candidly address the vacillation and persistence of artists during changing times.

At the far end of the wheat field, a single white kite hovers – alone.


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