Moscow City Government
Moscow City Department of Culture
Moscow Museum of Modern Art
Moscow Biennale Art Foundation
Museum Exhibition Association Manege
with the support
of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation
THE SAME ARTISTS IN MANEGE
to the 50th anniversary of the Manege Exhibition of 1962
Date: 1 — 12 December, 2012
Venue: Central Exhibition Hall Manege 1, Manege Square.
Round table 5 December, 2012 at 4p.m. «Art and power. to the 50th anniversary of the Manege Exhibition of 1962»
Curators: Grigoriy Zaslavsky, Daria Kurdyukova.
Artist: Alexei Tregubov.
This day, 1 December 2012, marks the 50th anniversary of the Manege Exhibition. At present this name is shared by two quite different, opposite phenomena. They were the 30 Years of MOSKh exhibition and the exhibition of the Qualification Improvement Studio of the Moscow City Committee of Graphic Artists, directed by Ely Bielutin. By 1 December 1962, the Moscow anniversary exhibition had been hosted for several weeks already, while artworks of Bielutin’s Studio were transported overnight. It was the exhibition that turned out to become one of the main events, which showed the relationship between the authorities and the artistic intelligentsia in the USSR in the 20th century. It became well-known due to the visit of Nikita Khrushchev, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union of that time. He severely criticized the exhibition. Even works by Robert Falk, Nikolai Andronov, Pavel Nikonov were scolded.
Ely Bielutin (1925-2012) launched his studio in 1948. In 1950, he founded the New Reality artistic academy. The exhibition was opened on 26 November, 1962, in the House of Teacher at 9 Bolshaya Kommunisticheskaya Street (at present — Alexander Solzhenitsyn Street). Foreign correspondents made reports about it. The news that a Soviet gallery hosted the abstract art became the main headline around the world. The idea to exhibit the works in the Manege gallery appeared after Anastas Mikoyan, a Soviet statesman, during his visit to Cuba, had been inquired about an exhibition of abstract artists in Moscow. The artworks were transported to the Manege at night. Bielutin replaced some experimental works with more traditional landscapes and cityscapes, made by students during the summer trip. There were no abstract artworks in the classical meaning. But as Boris Slutsky wrote, «the mankind was divided into two teams, the Attention team and the Stand at Ease team». Students of Bielutin’s Studio and other invited artists, such as Ernst Neizvestny, Yury Sobolev, Ülo Sooster, were not from the Attention team. The date of 1 December 1962 became the day of opening and closing of the exhibition.
The severe criticism of the exhibition in the Manege initiated the struggle against the abstract art in the Soviet Union. The Khrushchev Thaw rapidly subsided. The next celebrated exhibition of the Soviet unofficial artists became known as the Bulldozer exhibition.
Half a century went by. It is time to remember that legendary exhibition and its participants. Among them there is Boris Zhutovsky, Ernst Neizvestny, Vera Preobrazhenskaya, Leonid Rabichev, Maya Philippova, Inna Shmelyova. During just 50 years, many artworks settled in Russian private or international museum collections.
Looking at the artworks, exhibited half a century ago in Manege, it is hard to understand, what has made Krhushchev and his retinue angry. Perhaps, half a century later it will be also difficult to comprehend the today’s debates.
The exhibition space is a hall, divided into 3 small rooms like half a century ago. The first room demonstrates documents, photos, diaries, giving an idea of the context of the Manege Exhibition and of the subsequent careers of its participants. These artists have determined the cultural environment. Leonid Rabichev was an author of emblems of the Aeroflot and the Soviet Railways, Museums of the Kremlin and the Badaevsky brewery. Vera Preobrazhenskaya was a designer of the Life of Animals Soviet 6-volume encyclopedia and Soviet textbooks on natural sciences. Maya Philippova was a production designer.
The next room presents paintings of the Manege Exhibition. Leonid Mechnikov marked the spot on his Quarry painting, where Khrushchev had spat. The lost artworks are presented on slides. Thus, the slides are a stage of the historical distance in relation to the events of 1962. Like in 1962, the works are accompanied by Khrushchev’s remarks. But now they are provoked not only by abstract paintings, but also by the viewers, who are partakers of the audio installation. At last, on the front wall, at the exit of the hall, there are shadows of artists, the participants of the 1962 show. And when the viewer departs from the exhibition space, he leaves his shadow in the history as well.