press release

The State Museum of Contemporary Art of Thessaloniki announces the opening of the exhibition “Soviet Alternative Art (1956-1988) from the Costakis Collections”. The exhibition presents the whole spectrum of alternative art in the Soviet Union from the 1950’s to the 1980’s, an art alternative to the dominant Social Realism. The artists that participate in the exhibition have been experimenting themselves towards the directions of post-expressionism, minimalism, mobile art, conceptual art, photorealism.

In the exhibition there are presented among others: expressionist paintings by Anatolii Zverev from the 1950’s, early conceptual works by Ilya Kabakov, Ivan Chuikov, Oleg Vasiliev and Sergei Shablavin, 3D constructions by Vladimir Yankilevskii from the 1970’s, minimalist paintings by Igor Vulokh from the 1960’s and 1970’s. Artists of a younger generation are also presented, like Irina Nakhova, Nicholas Ovchinnikov, TOTART and Sergei Shutov.

Most of the works come from the collection of George Costakis and are presented for the first time in the public.

Around the world, the name George Costakis has become synonymous with the Russian avant-garde. Today, his collection is essentially divided between two Museums: the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow and the State Museum of Contemporary Art – Costakis Collection in Thessaloniki.

In Moscow, however, George Costakis is known for more than just an important collection of Russian avant-garde art. Intellectuals and artists still remember the famous apartment on Vernadskii Avenue, which – almost daily – attracted a disparate company of young painters and students, foreign diplomats and politicians, famous artists, writers and musicians. The influence of the Russian avant-garde on certain younger artists, such as Lydia Masterkova, Francisco Infante, Edward Steinberg and others, was largely shaped by their contact with the works in the apartment of George Costakis.

Thus, along with his collection of Russian avant-garde, Costakis also acquired a collection of alternative Soviet art from the period 1956 to 1977. After Costakis had settled with his family in Greece, his daughter Aliki opened a gallery in Athens called Segodnia (“Today”). Devoted exclusively to contemporary Russian art, Aliki Costaki kept a close eye on the contemporary Soviet visual arts world and acquired a series of works from the period ending with the ‘80s.

The works from the George and Aliki Costakis Collections that are presented in this catalogue cover a broad spectrum of the art that historians have called “unofficial”, “subversive”, “forbidden”, “underground”, “non-conformist”, “new avant-garde”, “post-war avant-garde”, and so on.

It is unquestionably an alternative to the various shades of Socialist Realism, an art that made its own way alongside Socialist Realism. This does not mean the historian will overlook the tremendous obstacles, the difficulties, often even persecutions suffered by the alternative artists of the period as they followed their parallel but unequal path in Art.

The oldest pieces in the collection were made in 1956, the year in which Nikita Khrushchev gave the signal for the de-Stalinization of the Soviet Union and toppled Stalin from his hero’s pedestal. The most recent works were made in 1989, just a few months after Sotheby’s had held, in Moscow, the first auction of works of modern and contemporary Russian art. This auction marked the final abolition of the distinction between the official and the unofficial in Soviet art. After 1988, art in Russia moved into a new era, and has since obeyed the international rules of the Western market.

only in german

from the Costakis Collections
Kurator: Maria Tsantsanoglou

Künstler: Anatoly Zverev, Ilya Kabakov, Ivan Chuikov, Oleg Vasiliev, Sergei Shablavin, Vladimir Yankilevskii, Igor Vulokh, Irina Nakhova, Nicholas Ovchinnikov, TOTART , Sergej Schutow ...