Discover the art of portraiture at the AZ Museum in Moscow


This summer, the AZ Museum, a private museum dedicated to the works of Anatoly Zverev and Soviet non-conformist artists, celebrated the art of portraiture. The three-storey townhouse museum exhibits 70 works by “unofficial” Soviet and contemporary artists, that is, artists who did not work under the conventions of socialist realism and their descendants. contemporary art.

The name of the show defies easy translation. It is a show of “mugs” (inhuman animal and human faces); iconic images (faces of saints and holy people painted on icons); and faces (portraits of people). As the helpful guide to the exhibit points out, the first pictures humans drew may have been animals – illustrations, scribbles, or magical totems. Then, for centuries, artists created ritualized faces on icons and in religious or ceremonial art where gestures, poses, clothing, objects, surroundings and colors all carried information for the viewers. (or worshipers) and had symbolic value. It is only recently in the long history of human civilization that artists have created portraits of “normal” people, presenting them as they wish in romantic, petty, comical, flattering, lush, grotesque, or bizarre works.

The exhibition presents a rich mix of all faces and genres. As you walk among the art, you cross different periods and styles of painting. In the pictures you see biting social commentary and testify to love and hate, satire and romance. And through these 70 portraits, you see an image of the late Soviet and post-Soviet period in Russian art and society.

Natalya Turnova’s “Passions”
Museum from A to Z

Cups and masks

The exhibition opens with strong images. The first thing you see upon entering is the face of a god (or a man?) And a red button – an interactive video by Plato Infante. Then your gaze is drawn to two huge, brightly colored portraits of Natalya Turnova and several paintings by Oleg Tselkov, the renowned artist who died in Paris in July. Tselkov’s portraits of brightly colored bulging faces are both off-putting and fascinating. He called them ‘cups’ and said,’ When I first painted my cup – that’s what I called my strange hero – I was shocked. It was not the portrait of a particular subject, but a composite portrait of everyone united on one face. And it was horribly familiar. This character was not attractive, but he attracted people like a magnet and gave them chills. It wasn’t a face but a physiognomy, a face, and so terribly familiar.

The wall portraits of Turnova from the “Passions” series, painted almost half a century later, are stylistically different but, like those of Tselkov, have the same mysterious ability to go from fierce to soft, or to change color. , or appear to have different expressions as you stand in front of them.

that of Vladimir Yakovlev "Portrait with cross"Museum from A to Z

“Portrait at the cross” by Vladimir Yakovlev
Museum from A to Z

Various images follow one another around these large paintings: the powerful head of Vladimir Yankovsky (1963), the portrait of a diamond guitarist by Vladimir Nemukhin; The touching “Portrait with a Cross” by Vladimir Yakovlev and over a dozen sketches and paintings by Anatoly Zverev from friends, neighbors and fellow artists.

Beloved faces

The second floor presents the wide range of non-conformist art: lyrical, shocking, touching, strange, playful, bewitching. The portraits begin with the whimsical and eerie images of Mikhail Chemiakin, then move on to the striking self-portrait of young Dmitry Plavinsky.

"Self-portrait," Dmitry Plavinsky Museum AZ

“Self-portrait”, Dmitri Plavinsky
Museum from A to Z

Grisha Bruskin’s “Cosmic Portrait” sculpture stands in the center of the room, opposite Sergei Shutov’s bizarre self-portrait: an impenetrable mass of swirls, bumps and mounds that metamorphose into a face on the other side. of the room.

The third floor is entirely devoted to Zverev: his lyrical portraits of some of the most important women in his life: Polina Lobachevskaya (the artistic director of the museum); Inna and Natasha Costakis, daughters of collector George Costakis; and his beloved Oksana Aseyeva, the love of his life who was almost 40 years his senior, but whom he still painted as he saw her, a young woman. “You know, kid,” Zverev once said, “I make everyone look beautiful …”

Video installation celebrating the works of Zverev by Plato Infante AZ Museum

Video installation celebrating the works of Zverev by Plato Infante
Museum from A to Z

Opposite the portraits is a haunting lyrical video installation by Plato Infante who deconstructs and reconstructs Zverev’s works.

Go up one more floor for a coffee or a drink in the rooftop cafe overlooking the area around Triumfalnaya Ploshchad. Before you leave, enter the courtyard behind the museum where sculptor Vadim Kosmatschof’s sculpture of the AZ museum logo rises in steel and rises to the sky.

For more information on the show and tickets, see the site here. The exhibition runs until August 15.

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