Malevich comes to London

Dec 18th, 2013 | By | Category: Publications

Kazemir Malevich and the Russian Avant Garde comes to Tate Modern on July 17 through to October 24th.  This is the largest Malevich exhibition for 20 years and combines the archives of the Khardzhiev family and the Costakis collection with the permanent collection of the Stedelijk Museum.

Tate Modern, London

Tate Modern, London

Nina Siegel in the New York Times details what to expect:-

Rare Glimpse of the Elusive Kazimir Malevich

By NINA SIEGAL – NYT – Nov 5 2013

AMSTERDAM — Radical art, revolution, celebrity, suppression, arrest, obscurity and rediscovery — the life of the Russian artist Kazimir Malevich traced a dramatic arc. But for most art lovers, he is remembered for a single black square.

In 1915, Malevich painted a black square on a square canvas against a white background. He called it the “zero of form,” representing a simultaneous end point of figurative painting and the beginning of a new pictorial vocabulary.

Presented that year in Petrograd (now St. Petersburg) at the “Last Futurist Exhibition of Paintings 0.10,” it changed the course of art, and influenced such disparate genres as Dada, Surrealism and Minimalism. He called it “Suprematism,” art based on “pure artistic feeling.”

Now the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, which already owns 24 Malevich paintings — more than any other museum outside of Russia — has brought together two of the world’s most important collections of Malevich works. “Kazimir Malevich and the Russian Avant-Garde,” which runs through Feb. 2, is the most comprehensive retrospective of the painter in 20 years.

“There is hardly any artist in the world who hasn’t thought about that black square,” said Achim Borchardt-Hume, the head of exhibitions at Tate Modern in London. “He’s one of those artists who exercises an enormous pull on the imagination of other artists, but there are very few people who have actually seen his works.”

That’s because most of Malevich’s paintings have never made it outside of Russia, and many of his works on paper, which are now thought to be crucial to understanding his development, have been in a private collection that has not been exhibited. The works included in the Stedelijk show are drawn from the George Costakis collection of Russian avant-garde paintings from the Museum of Contemporary Art, in Thessaloniki, Greece, as well as the Khardzhiev Collection, an unmatched trove of archival materials preserved by the Russian art critic Nikolai Khardzhiev.

Mr. Khardzhiev’s collection includes the largest assemblage of Malevich works on paper anywhere. “These were two pioneers in collecting this form of art in Russia,” said Bart Rutten, the curator of the Stedelijk exhibition. “What is particularly interesting is that they collected this kind of work in Russia while it was forbidden art. Abstract art was not allowed to be shown, and the collectors were able to get these works because they were very close to the artists. For me, it’s beautiful to be able to finally present these works together.”

Additional Malevich pieces come from the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, the MoMA in New York and several private collectors. All told, the show presents more than 500 works, representing the full sweep of Malevich’s career until his death in 1935.

Malevich was the first of 14 children born to the manager of a sugar factory in Kiev in 1878. He started as Cubist just before the Russian Revolution, but soon began to advocate an art that would place pure emotionalism ahead of figurative painting. It was an aesthetic philosophy that perfectly suited the young revolutionary spirit of the day. He and his circle of independent-minded artists, the Suprematists, were hailed as the vanguard of the new Russia.

After the October Revolution of 1917, Malevich was hired by the state as a teacher, but when artistic tastes shifted he was fired. He visited Europe, where he was a celebrated artist, but returned abruptly in June 1927, leaving behind many paintings. Once he returned to Stalinist Russia, his works were confiscated, and he was arrested and banned from making art.

Luckily, Mr. Khardzhiev managed to preserve manuscripts and memoirs from the movement, along with about 1,350 artworks. He held onto them until 1993, when he and his wife arranged to leave the Soviet Union. They contracted with a German gallery for their collection to be transported after them. The artworks were sent successfully, but only 60 percent of the archive made it to Amsterdam. When Mr. Khardzhiev died in 1996 he left his art collection to the Khardzhiev Foundation in Amsterdam, and later the Foundation and the Russian State Archive agreed to administer Mr. Khardzhiev’s archive. Many of those works are on loan to this exhibition.

Still, most of Malevich’s work and the story of the Russian avant-garde remained under lock and key until Glasnost. In 1989, the Stedelijk held the West’s first large-scale Malevich retrospective, including its own paintings and works from the Khardzhiev trove. This exhibition is larger and provides more context for Malevich’s artistic explorations, Mr. Rutten said.

One of the highlights of the show is a complete reconstruction of the “Last Futurist Exhibition of Paintings 0.10,” which included the first “Black Square” and many other Suprematist paintings that defined the new movement. Another room showcases the 1913 Cubo-Futurist opera “Victory Over the Sun,” for which Malevich designed non-realistic sets and costumes. Malevich’s designs for the opera hang on the wall, and visitors can watch a filmed staging.

The show will move to the Bundeskunsthalle in Bonn from Mar. 11 to June 22 and to the Tate Modern on July 17.

Mr. Borchardt-Hume at the Tate said the exhibition there will focus more narrowly on Malevich and his personal oeuvre, presenting about 350 works either made by Malevich himself or made by Malevich in collaboration with other artists. “To see this together is largely impossible other than by going to St. Petersburg or Moscow,” he said.

Ann Goldstein, artistic director of the Stedelijk, said the show should give people a much better understanding of the full spectrum of Malevich’s influence: “He blew open the parameters of what a work of art can be and how it can function in its culture. And today, nearly 80 years after his death, we are still awed by and grappling with his achievements.”



Tags: George Costakis, Kazemir Malevich and the Russian Avant Garde, Malevich exhibition, Nikolai Khardzhiev, Stedelijk Museum, Tate Modern

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