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ARSEN SAVADOV AT ART RIOT EXHIBITION: POST-SOVIET ACTIONISM IN SAATCHI GALLERY

23 November 2017

On November 16, Saatchi Gallery in London opened an exhibition Art Riot: Post-Soviet Actionism. Just a reminder: the private preview of the project was visited by Zenko Foundation progenitors Yana and Zenko Aftanaziv.

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Arsen Savadov, Donbass Chocolate

The exhibition curator is Marat Gelman who collected the works of prominent art representatives from the last 25 years. They include Arsen Savadov: the exhibition presents photos from two of his series, Donbass Chocolate and The Collective Red. Donbass Chocolate is a project dating back to 1997, among the most provocative ones in Savadov’s artworks. The photos of miners wearing ballet tutus spurred a lot of debate at the time and brought a lot of fame to the artist. The Collective Red was created in 1997-98.

Just like in Donbass Chocolate, two worlds and two perceptions clash here intentionally. The first part of the project was made in a slaughterhouse, with toreadors posing against the background of dressed carcasses and blood. In the second part of The Collective Red, men in red tutus appear among participants of communist manifestations, red flags, and streamers. Both series are provocative, and they call on the audience to ask itself a question what actually hides behind the images praised by the Soviet reality, i.e., work of miners and mass manifestations. Works from both series are presented in Zenko Foundation collection.

Other participants of Art Riot: Post-Soviet Actionism exhibition are no less famous: they are Oleg Kulik, Pussy Riot, Pyotr Pavlensky, Blue Noses, AES+F groups, and others. The organizers rejected the common exhibition scheme and constructed the project as a story about authors: some significant figures have separate rooms dedicated to them. Besides, the art spaces don’t just feature the authors’ works. For example, Pussy Riot halls exhibit paintings by Yevgenia Maltseva, posters by Lusine Dzhanyan, a lightbox by Maria Kiselyova and Artyom Loskutov — all this creates an integral image for one of the most known Russian protest art groups.

The exhibition was opened in the year marking the 100th anniversary of October Revolution, and though there are no direct references to this historical event in the project, many problems raised at the time remain relevant today. The actionists’ works pay a lot of attention to personal freedom facing both political ideology and religion.

The exhibition is open until December 31.