Igor Savitsky - Artist, Collector, Museum Founder - Marinika Babanazarova.
The Savitsky State Art Museum named after Igor Savitsky in Nukus the capital Karakalpakstan contains an astounding 90,000 works including a comprehensive collection of Karakalpak art and ethnographic items and the largest collection of Soviet avant-garde art outside Russia (rivalled only by St. Petersburg’s Russian
Russian artists, caught up in the idealism of the early Soviet days, were drawn by the exoticism of Central Asia. They visited the region, some settling there, and painted exuberant works fusing modernism with orientalism. Simultaneously Uzbek and Karakalpak artists were producing remarkable pieces influenced in particular by primitivism.
This frenetic period of modernist experimentation lasted for a decade after the revolution. In 1932-33 Stalin promulgated the decree 'On the Reconstruction of Literary and Art Organizations' and those artists whose works did not meet the 'radiant future' style of socialist realism found their paintings removed from galleries and were unable to participate in exhibitions and like others out of step with this turbulent era, often subject to repression.
Igor Savitsky was born in Kiev in 1915. He first came to Central Asia as a student during World War II, when the Institute in which he was studying was evacuated to Samarkand. In 1950 he went to Karakalpakstan as the artist on the Khorezm Archeological and Ethnographic Expedition, and, fascinated by the culture and people of the steppe, he stayed on after the expedition finished in 1957.
He took the opportunity to explore the region and started collecting Karakalpak carpets, costumes, jewelry, and other works of art and artifacts. In the early 1960’s he persuaded the local authorities in Nukus that they needed a museum to store and exhibit them and in 1966 he became its first curator.
Savitsky also collected drawings and paintings of artists linked to Central Asia and most famously he began his amazing collection of thousands of works from all over the USSR by avant-garde artists including Alexander Volkov, Ural Tansykbayev and Victor Ufimtsev of the Uzbek school, Kliment Red’ko, Lyubov Popova, Mukhina, Ivan Koudriachov and Robert Falk of the Russian avant-garde movement amongst many others.
This amazing collection today is regarded by many including UNESCO of being of immense importance to Uzbekistan's cultural heritage.
Marinika Babanazarova has been the museum's director since Savitsky's death in 1984. Her grandfather served as one of the early leaders of the region. Savitsky often visited her family's house in Nukus and later, Tashkent. Her memoir draws upon correspondence, official records, and other documents about the Savitsky family that have become available during the last few years, as well as the recollections of a wide range of people who knew Igor Savitsky personally.
As she states in the foreword to this deeply moving and personal narrative: “I hope this memoir will serve not only as a multifaceted, broad-based portrait of a great man who was my mentor, but also as a tribute to his legacy.”
The book is available at the Nukus museum and also online now through Discovery Books, London. (around A$24 including postage to Australia).
If you are visiting Nukus this book and many other excellent art books, catalogues, poscards and traditional arts and crafts are available at the museum for purchase.
Visiting the museum's website provides a valuable overview of its history and collection before your visit.
Source : Uzbek journeys - Art and Craft Tours to Uzbekistan and a number of other sites.
More information on the Art movement known as Socialist Realism see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socialist_realism