20 April 2018

Post Exil. Leningrad. The Sixties

Works from our collection at the Mikhail Shemyakin exhibition

The 1960s- 70s are a very interesting period for the Leningrad avant-garde. Along with the rigid closeness and regularity of official art, there was a completely different life, with its own musicians, poets and artists who worked for themselves and a narrow circle of friends, without prospects for wide recognition.

Already in 1960, 18-year-old Mikhail Shemyakin, a young but already accomplished artist, came into this world. Absolutely far from politics and denial of the realities of the day, continuously working, Shemyakin earned recognition in the shortest possible time. The success of the artist in the circles of independent art was the reason for the interest of the supervisory authorities in his work. The Soviet authorities faced the question of whether to put Shemyakin in a psychiatric clinic or get rid of him somehow else. As one of the options – deportation from the country. Shemyakin was offered fifty dollars and a ticket to Paris. The best offer from the KGB at that time! So the first involuntary Russian emigrant of the 60s appeared.

The exhibition presents works from the early period of Mikhail Shemyakin’s artistry – from Leningrad / the 60s. Before the artist was exiled from the USSR, Leningrad inspired him: the first works were created here, here he arranged his performances. Among other works of the 60s, here are presented three paintings by the artist from the collection of the Seven Winds Foundation.

The design of the exhibition is perfectly decided – the walls are occupied with photographs from the Leningrad workshop of Mikhail Shemyakin. These are the models and friends of Mikhail, the views from the windows of his studio on Zagorodny Prospekt. The exhibition is formed more like a friendly space, not like an ordinary museum exhibition.

In exile, Mikhail Shemyakin did not believe that he would be able to return to his homeland. Now his paintings are in museums all over the world and Russia too, and the monuments he created are on the city streets of Europe, America and Russia.

By the way, the main purpose of Mikhail Shemyakin Center, where this exhibition is now open, is to provide support to new and already well-known artists. Mikhail Shemyakin was guided by the desire to contribute to the development of culture and art in modern Russia.