The works of 18 of Russia’s leading contemporary artists are currently housed in London’s Saatchi Gallery. The exhibition centres on the art of the post-Stalinist period, which was defined by works related to the capital. Drawing from various types of movements such as Pop, Abstract, and Metaphysical right through to Contemporary art, Breaking the Icewill appeal to every type of art enthusiast.
It’s hard to put across the diversity of the collection on show in 14 galleries of the Saatchi Museum. The expansive range comprises the media of painting, photography, sculpture and installation. Each piece is presented as an informative response to the complexities of modern Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union, whilst being influenced by different artistic movements. Furthermore, most of the artists haven’t had their work shown internationally, making this a rare glimpse into Russia’s recent artistic history.
Pieces such as Alexander Kosopov’s Lenin and Coca-Cola and Leonid Sokov’s Meeting of Two Sculptures are playfully satirical, while Boris Mikhailov’s Case History is an unconventional collection of photography that portrays the lives of the impoverished in his home town. For those whose tastes lie in abstract art, Galleries 11 – 14 feature oil paintings of soviet figures, reflecting Russia’s distant past. There are also portraits of malformed landscapes that take their cue from Retro Modern art, unveiling portrayals of social realism and showing Moscow as a crooked and dilapidated city through the styles of modernism and futurism.
Considering Russia is a country more famous for its literature, Breaking the Ice is an engrossing and often surprising affair that is sure to educate viewers on Russia’s under-appreciated art scene. The works on display are skilfully balanced between playful, satirical and dark, making the exhibition an insightful and captivating experience.
Verdict: •••• Conor Nyhan