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Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art




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Special projects

Sots Art. Political Art in Russia and China

event site and dates

State Tretyakov Gallery on Krymsky Val (New Tretyakov Gallery)   3 march 2007 — 1 april 2007

team of authors

  • Yulia Aksenova
  • Anna Dikovich
  • Sergey Epikhin
  • Andrey Erofeev (project leader)
  • Alexandra Kriksunova
  • Yulia Liderman
  • Kirill Svetlyakov
  • Elena Zaitseva

chinese curator

  • Xin Don Chen

project description

Sots Art was invented in 1972 by the famous duo of Moscow artists, Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid. However, before long it transpired that many other parallel creative groups in Moscow were engaged in a similar play with Soviet-era images, styles and realities In the late 1970s, Sots Art crossed the borders of the USSR and found its way into the United States and Western Europe. . But it left its most salient mark in the East, where it influenced the making of nonconformist art in China. Chinese artists of the 1990s worked out their own version of mainstream art Political Art a phenomenon that consists of a plastic embodiment of the funny act and way of thinking, just as in Sots Art there is a mockery of all values, cults and beliefs offered by political, economic and ecclesiastical powers; it ridicules every authority that forces people to their knees and compels them to uncritical and irrational submission. As the sots-artist laughingly challenges government and society he is often punished heavily (the famous Moscow bulldozer exhibition, arrests, studios searched and works seized). Some Sots Art works will not be accepted at this exhibition either (they will be open to viewing in a separate exhibition space in Moscow). But the therapy Sots Art provides to totalitarian conscience is not limited to laughter. It is just as much built on the practice of aesthetic distance and dissociated analysis of its own contexts. Initially, its device of juxtaposing dissimilar languages ruled out the development of its own plastic concept of style. But gradually the very denial of the unity of artistic form became the basis of a new treatment of form. Over the years, the exploratory drive of Sots Art died down and artists became more interested in the expressive, narrative, even entertaining possibilities of the dialogical form.
The Sots Art: Political Art in Russia and China exhibition was conceived as a retrospective panorama of this movement. It is presented as a chronological development, a sharp turn in topography from the Moscow project of 1972 to the Beijing Political Art of the late 1990s and as a typological cross-section. The exposition will consist of 7 parts:

1. Gambling with Art
The Trickster Persona
Mock Actionism
Sociology for Fun

2. Appropriating Things Soviet
Masking as a Housing Department Layout Man
Acting as a Member of the Artists Union
Designing Anti-Soviet Art

3. Deconstruction through Absurdity
Literalising Political Metaphors
The Conflict of Language and Plot

4. The Focus of Style: Dialogue
Binary Oppositions
Manipulable Objects: Creator/Viewer Co-authorship
Ritual Gestures

5. After the Victory: Nostalgic Sots Art
Imperial Style Apotheoses
Fantasias on the Theme of the Languages of the Totalitarian Culture
The Language of Civil Defence Posters
Shifting and Blurring Tokens and Meanings
The Archaeology of Soviet Civilisation

6. Sots Art as an Ethnic Pattern
Ideological Rapport
Red Souvenirs

7. The Death of Style in Partisan Art


  • State Tretyakov Gallery

chief coordinator

  • Irina Lebedeva


  • Nina Divova

technical assistance

  • Evgeny Arseniev
  • Svetlana Pereslegina
  • Alexander Zagorsky

russian artists

  • Yury Avvakumov
  • Nikita Alekseev
  • Vagrich Bakhchanyan
  • Aleksey Belyaev-Gintovt
  • Blue Noses Group
  • Blue Soup Group
  • Grisha Bruskin
  • Petr Bystrov
  • Andrey Filippov
  • Lyudmila Gorlova
  • Eduard Gorokhovsky
  • Sven Gundlach
  • Georgy Guryanov
  • Ilya Kabakov
  • Alexei Kallima
  • Georgy Kizevalter
  • Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid
  • Maria Konstantinova
  • Irina Korina
  • Alexander Kosolapov
  • Valery Koshlyakov
  • Elena Kovylina
  • Nikolai Kozlov
  • Leonid Lamm
  • Rostislav Lebedev
  • Diana Machulina
  • Boris Mikhailo
  • Igor Mukhin
  • Sergey Mironenko
  • Vladimir Mironenko
  • Nest Group
  • Timur Novikov
  • Boris Orlov
  • Anatoly Osmolovsky
  • Georgy Ostretsov
  • Nikola Ovchinnikov
  • PG Group
  • Pavel Pepperstein
  • Viktor Pivovarov
  • Dmitry Prigov
  • Radek Group
  • Andrey Roiter
  • Leonid Sokov
  • Olga Soldatova
  • Vyacheslav Sysoev
  • Avdei Ter-Oganyan
  • Dmitry Tsvetkov
  • Andrey Shnurov
  • Alexander Vinogradov and Vladimir Dubosarsky
  • Sergey Volkov
  • Dmitry Vrubel
  • Vadim Zakharov
  • Konstantin Zvezdochetov

chinese artists

  • Luo Brothers
  • Zeng Fanzhi
  • Wang Guangyi
  • Ma Han
  • Lu Hao
  • Sui Jianguo
  • Wang Jinsong
  • Liu Liguo
  • Fang Lijun
  • Yue Minjun
  • Wang Nengtao
  • Wang Ningde
  • Li Shan
  • Yang Shaobin and Yu Youhan
  • Ren Sihong
  • Wang Wenhai
  • Zhang Xiaogang
  • Luo Xu
  • Chang Xugong
  • Huang Yihan
  • Xu Yihui
  • Shao Yinong and Munchen
  • Yin Zhaoyang
  • Feng Zhengjie
  • Tang Zhigang vWang Ziwei
Exhibits provided by the Tretyakov Gallery the private collections of V. Antonichuk, I. Markin, V. Semenikhin and A. Smurzikov, as well as artists and private galleries in Moscow and Beijing

project supported by

  • New Foundation
  • Marat Guelman Contemporary Art Promotion Foundation
  • Ekaterina Foundation
  • Stroiteks
  • British American Tobacco

A full-length article about the project will be in the catalogue of the 2nd Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art which is coming out on the 1st March.

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