The gallery owner as a director of cultural space

At the end of the March, three Moscow galleries displayed three wonderful Russian artists. Daev,33 gallery put on a unique monograph exhibition of Sergei Romanovich (1894-1968), a very special artist. Romanovich, who went through a vivid avant-garde period, and was a friend and ally of Mikhail Larionov, developed his own artistic language. His paintings are transparent and full of inner light – they seem to breathe like nature itself and everything living on earth. Although Romanovich was a member of the Moscow Artists’ Union, he did not receive large commissions, his works were not purchased by the state, he showed his creations to few people, and so he practically lived on “bread and water”, as they say. He often did not have enough money to buy canvases and paints, and drew on paper. Owing to his miserable living conditions, his works have been poorly preserved, and are little known. But Romanovich’s art, which is now on display at Daev,33 gallery, gives a bright impression of light and joy of existence. The very diverse bouquets of flowers are especially fine. The artist loved flowers and painted them with great inspiration.

Boris Chernyshev (1906-1969) is an artist of as much originality as Romanovich, and the fate of his legacy is also similar. 2.36 gallery is displaying works by Chernyshev, one of its regular artists. Chernyshev was trained as a monumental artist, and worked extensively on creating mosaics. But he gradually began to paint landscapes and portraits of friends “for himself”. For his “frescoes” the artist used newspaper pages and wrapping paper, which allowed him to get the special matte surface of his works. Unfortunately, the low quality of the materials used subsequently had a strong effect on the preservation of the works. His descendants, with the active assistance of restorers, were able to restore these items. Chernyshev’s landscapes are incredibly inspired, they give viewers the impression of being present, the chance to “wander” in them and think about the timeless values of existence.

Mikhail Rudakov (1914 – 1985) is an artist of the same era, but with a tragic fate. His monograph exhibition is displayed at the Kovcheg gallery. Rudakov, who completed his creative path as an easel painter, entranced by images of Spain and lyrical views of Gurzuf, a virtuoso master of paints and pastels, initially tried his hand in different genres: illustrator of a front-line newspaper, theater artist and poster artist. He was born in the Poltava guberniya, and studied at the Kharkov art institute, where he felt the influence of Ukrainian constructivism. He did not manage to finish his studies – the war broke out. He was seriously injured in the Battle of Kiev, was captured and subsequently sentenced for this under article 58. He spent five years in labor camps in Vorkuta. In 1949, he was released and allowed to live in the Arkhangelsk Oblast, and worked as the head artist of the drama theater in Kotlas. Many of his theater works – scenography and costumes – from the Memoriam collection are displayed at the present exhibition for the first time. The artist came to Moscow in 1953, but was not rehabilitated and did not have his rights restored to him until 1957. From the mid-1950s, he worked at Reklamfilm, and worked extensively as an illustrator: he created artistic interpretations of Apuleius, Villon, Hemingway, the prose of Tolstoy, and other writers. Today, Rudakov’s works are held in museums and numerous private collections in Russia and abroad.

All of these Moscow galleries have displayed the great Russian artists of the 20th century to the wider public. The gallery owners, unlike museum directors, assemble exhibitions with their own funds, conducting extensive research of the works beforehand, thus extensively broadening the boundaries of Russian culture of the 20th century. The Russian museum space is added to and enriched to a large degree by the exhibition spaces of antiques galleries. And unlike museum directors, gallery owners contact their visitors personally, and the information about art and antiques that art connoisseurs gain in the course of personal discussions, and the display of specific items, inspires them to collect objects. Individual antique master classes form a clientele which gradually becomes collectors. Antique gallery owners are in a certain way the directors of the Russian cultural space. A process take places whereby the public become aware of valuable Russian and international works. But because of the nature of Russian society, and the imperfection of national legislation, well-off clients, who have been enlightened by years of hard work by antique dealers, emigrate along with their capital. At the exhibitions, the gallery owners once more hold confidential talks with the visitors. And then they come back again and again, and life goes on!

Nadezhda Nazarevskaya, antiques columnist