moscow city government
moscow city department of culture
russian academy of arts
moscow museum of modern art

With the support of
Partner of the project
Mikhail Kulakov. The Style of the Thaw Period
Михаил Кулаков, Ностальгия 2. Акрил, картон, 98,5х204,5см. 2000
Михаил Кулаков, Физическое пространство 1. Холст, масло, 100х100см. 1976
Михаил Кулаков, Мадонна с младенцем. Масло, битум, холст, 190х142см. 1968
Михаил Кулаков, Русская Кама Сутра, лист 6. Гуашь, бумага, картон, 70х50см. 1971
Михаил Кулаков, Война за мир. Тушь на бумаге, картон, 31х42см. 1960
Date: April 24 — June 9, 2019

Curator: Andrey Erofeev

The Moscow Museum of Modern Art with the support of the Italian Embassy in Moscow and the Italian Cultural Institute presents a retrospective exhibition by Mikhail Kulakov (1933–2015) titled «The Style of the Thaw Period». The exhibition includes works from Mikhail Kulakov’s workshop in Italy, the State Russian Museum, the Tretyakov Gallery, as well as from private collections in St. Petersburg and Moscow. As a result of the cultural cooperation between Russia and Italy, the exhibition is a continuation of MMOMA’s program dedicated to introducing Moscow audiences to prominent Russian artists. The general partner of the project is the Generali Group, the largest insurance company in Italy.

Kulakov is one of the brightest artists of his time. His work reflects the trends that shaped Russian art in the period from the early 1950s to the early 1960s, which was characterised by openness and cultural liberalization. Kulakov was one of the first to exhibit bold abstract paintings at apartment exhibitions popular at that time. This provoked attacks on Kulakov in the press. Fearing arrest, he fled to Leningrad and later to Italy, where he spent half of his life and died in 2015 at the age of 82.

In his Moscow period, Kulakov was one of the first to sense the ideological trends of the Thaw and develop their visual equivalents. Creative impulse, vitality, intuitivism, the cult of chance and improvisation, attempts to cast off the past — these features underpinned Kulakov’s creative process. With his works vividly demonstrating the trends that dominated the culture during the Thaw decade, Kulakov became a perfect exemplar of that time.

According to the curator Andrey Erofeev’s concept «The Style of the Thaw Period» can be considered as consisting of two sections — abstraction and symbolism. The exhibition encompasses more than 140 works by Kulakov as well as pieces by other Russian artists. Mikhail Kulakov’s paintings represent two trends characteristic of the Thaw culture.

First, reflected in his paintings was Soviet artists’ fascination with the latest achievements of American art, particularly Action Painting and Abstract Expressionism, as well as the style of Tachisme, which originated in Western Europe. Presented in the halls in the left part of the museum are 40 paintings by Mikhail Kulakov and by other abstract artists from the 1950s and 1960s, such as Vladimir Slepyan, Boris Turetsky, Oleg Prokofiev, Valery Yurlov, Lev Kropivnitsky, Vladimir Yakovlev, Nikolai Vechtomov and Kulakov’s close friend Evgeny Mikhnov-Voitenko.

Another trend dominating Soviet art of that time was the search for tools to express religious feeling. Aiming to restore theology and religious art to their place in culture, the artists of this trend drew on the national legacy; at the same they had enough courage to try to reinvent the traditions of Orthodox painting. Having reduced the canons of icon painting to a mark, they focused on searching for pictorial equivalents of «spirituality». The halls in the right part of the museum feature works by Kulakov as a religious artist (he referred to them as ARTE SACRA) as well as pieces by Russian artists who working underground developed religious themes in graphics and painting. Mikhail Kulakov’s work conceptually and visually embodies both abstract and religious trends, which were the key features of the art of the Thaw.

The show will be even more exciting for music-lovers. MMOMA together with «Yandex.Music» have compiled a playlist with references to both the artists’ works and some episodes from their lives. The playlist is available on the main page of «Yandex.Music» and in the app.

Mikhail Kulakov is a Soviet and Italian artist. Kulakov was born on January 8, 1933 in Moscow. Mikhail Kulakov studied in the Moscow Institute of International Relations for two years. In the period from 1959 to 1963 Kulakov studied at the N. K. Cherkasov State Institute of Theater, Music, and Cinematography (Production Department) in Leningrad. In 1976 he emigrated to Italy. He lived in San Vito di Narni, where he was buried on February 15, 2015. In 1984 he was awarded the title of Honored Member of the Academy of Fine Arts «Pietro Vannucci» in Perugia. In 2003 he received the gold medal of the XXVII International Emigration Award (XXVII Premio Internazionale «Emigratione»), Pratola Peligna, Italy. Kulakov’s paintings are in the collections of the State Tretyakov Gallery, the State Russian Museum, the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts as well as in museums in the USA and Italy. Mosaic panels by Kulakov decorate two metro stations in Rome.

Andrey Erofeev (b. 1956, Paris) is an art historian and curator. In 1978 Erofeev graduated from the Department of Art History of the Moscow State University. In1984 he received his PhD degree in Art History with his dissertation titled «Artistic Movement ’Mir Iskusstva’ and Russian Culture of the early 20th Century». Erofeev has worked as an architect and a research fellow. He served as a Senior Research Fellow at the Department of Russian and Soviet Architecture at the Central Research Institute of the Theory and History of Architecture. Erofeev was the Head of the Contemporary Art Department at the State Museum-Reserve «Tsaritsyno». During his work at Tsaritsyno Erofeev amassed a collection of nonconformist art of the Soviet and post-Soviet periods, which comprises more than 2000 pieces. From 2002 to 2008 Andrey Erofeev served as the Head of the Contemporary Art Department at the State Tretyakov Gallery.

The Italian Cultural Institute in Moscow was founded in 1986. The Institute promotes Italian culture in Russia, organizing cultural events in the fields of art, theater, literature, philosophy and science. The Institute organises Italian courses, houses a library and a media library.

The General Partner of the Project

Generali Russia & CIS is an affiliate of Generali CEE Holding, part of the Generali Group. Generali is an independent Italian insurance and asset management group, and as such one of the leading insurers in the world.

Generali operates in 50 Countries, with total premium income exceeding € 68 billion in 2017 and a growth trend that continued in 2018. The Group is a major player in Western Europe and is positively expanding in Central and Eastern Europe as well as in Asia.

Generali Russia & CIS was registered on 18 February 2018 to represent Generali in the area and to scout for new opportunities for development in Russia & CIS. Subject to the completion of a corporate restructuring process, which includes a submission to the Central Bank of Russia, the company will become the owner of the Generali Group’s participation in Ingosstrakh, one of the top five largest insurers in the Russian market.

Generali Russia & CIS has established an operating entity — Generali Insurance Brokers Russia & CIS — an insurance and reinsurance intermediary: the aim is to launch operations in the area, bringing international know how and innovative solutions, while gaining direct experience on the Russian insurance market.

The Moscow Museum of Contemporary Art expresses sincere gratitude to the Workshop of Mikhail Kulakov and personally to Marianna Molla Kulakov, the State Russian Museum, the Vadim Sidur Museum, Novy Museum in St. Petersburg, and the Tretyakov Gallery for the loan of Mikhail Kulakov ‘s works. The exhibition also includes pieces from private collections in St. Petersburg and Moscow.


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