It is exceptionally momentous for Budapest to host a major collection of Russian avant-garde art from a single museum, especially when the works in question have never been seen together before outside Russia. The Hungarian National Gallery is proud to welcome forty outstanding works of art from the avant-garde collection of the Ekaterinburg Museum of Fine Arts, produced by such notable Russian artists as Kazimir Malevich, Wassily Kandinsky, Alexander Rodchenko, El Lissitzky, Natalia Goncharova and Mikhail Larionov.
The Ekaterinburg Museum of Fine Arts has one of the world’s most important collections of Russian avant-garde art from the 1910s and 1920s.The museum wasfounded following the reorganisation of cultural life in Russia that took place after the Revolution. By 1918, avant-garde artists were meeting at the arts department of the People’s Commissariat for Education (Narkompros) in Moscow to debate how modern art museums and state exhibitions should be used to help educate the masses. In December 1918, Narkompros commissioner Anatoly Lunacharsky approved a list of artists whose works would be purchased by Narkompros for the state art fund. In 1920, a selection was made from this enormous array of art for an exhibition titled All the Movements of Contemporary Painting, which later formed the basis of the collection at the museum in Ekaterinburg. Between 1925 and 1934 the collection was housed in the Ural State Museum, being transferred in 1936 to the newly built Art Gallery in Sverdlovsk (Ekaterinburg’s Soviet-era name).
The museum’s collection features outstanding chefs d’ouvre from almost every movement of the Russian avant-garde, including Cubism, Cubo-Futurism, Neo-Primitivism, Suprematism and Constructivism.The distinctly Russian Neo-Primitivist style of the 1910s isrepresented in the works of Mikhail Larionov, Natalia Goncharova and Olga Rozanova. There are pictures by members of the legendary Jack of Diamonds art group, such as Aleksandr Kuprin, Aristarkh Lentulov, Ilya Mashkov and Robert Falk. Nadezhda Udaltsova’s Cubist composition was exhibited at the landmark 1915 show titled The Last Futurist Exhibition of Paintings 0.10. Pride of place at the Ekaterinburg Museum of Fine Arts is held by masterpieces by Wassily Kandinsky and Kazimir Malevich, and both these works can be seen display in Budapest. Olga Rozanova, Ivan Kliun and Lyubov Popova are among the followers of Suprematism whose works form part of the museum’s collection. The museum also owns Abstract Composition by Alexander Rodchenko, which is one of the most important paintings he produced in the late 1910s.
The exhibition leads visitors through the most significant trends of Russian avant-garde art in the 1910s and 1920s. Besides the artworks themselves, this stormy period is recalled also by contemporary documents – the extraordinary artistic features of the Russian avant-garde can only be interpreted through the understanding of Russian society and historical events of these decades. The atmosphere of revolutionary Russia is evoked also by extracts from contemporary art films, presenting historic personalities and crucial episodes, as well as the circumstances and everyday activities of different social groups.
The exhibition is accompanied by a substantial bilingual catalogue (in English and Hungarian). The publication of the entire avant-garde collection of the Ekaterinburg Museum of Fine Arts is an art history sensation.
The curator of the exhibition is Mariann Gergely, art historian at the Hungarian National Gallery.