At a well-attended meeting on 22 November BUS members old and new were unanimous in their praise for a learned, detailed and entertaining talk by Dr. Aliya Abykaeva. The Society was privileged to welcome His Excellency Ambassador Shaikov to the event.
Dr. Abykaeva holds a doctorate from the Courtauld Institute, London; she has also taught at the Courtauld Gallery and has worked at Christie’s Auction House as an expert on Russian and Soviet art.
Her copiously illustrated talk covered the artists of the Soviet avant-garde period including Robert Falk, Ural Tansykbayev, Viktor Ufimtsev and Alexander Volkov.
A major focus was the collection at Uzbekistan’s Karakalpakstan State Museum of Art named after I.V. Savitsky – also known as the Nukus Museum. This hosts the world’s second largest collection of Soviet avant-garde art outside the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg. Works exhibited at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow also illustrated Dr. Abykaeva’s talk.
Igor Vitalievich Savitsky was a Russian painter born in Kiev who first visited Karakalpakstan in 1950. The government of Uzbekistan supported Savitsky from the outset. We were informed that at the start of his life as a collector, Savitsky’s interests were artists who lived in or were connected to Central Asia. Although ‘avant-garde’ is widely used to describe the Savitsky collection it includes post-avant-garde as well as Socialist Realism. Avant-garde was unwelcome to the Soviet State, Socialist Realism of course glorified by it.
Members chatted over drinks and refreshments generously provided by the Embassy and a number of members continued the discussion over dinner with Dr. Abykaeva and her husband.