By Kiersten Henry
Steamboat Springs, CO - Mikhail Gorbachev may have implemented a political and economic overhaul in the Soviet Union during the 1980s, but his impact on the Russian art world is commonly neglected. As the Soviet Union fell apart and politics changed throughout the following decade, Russian art became more accessible to the rest of the world.
Ultimately, Gorbachev decriminalized the sale of mid-20th century Russian pieces to private collectors. This was the Russian art world’s Perestroika.
Western collectors capitalized on this new opportunity quickly by buying up much of Russia’s art from this era. It was a frenzied movement that was short-lived. Realizing that Russian art was quickly being dispersed into international private collections, the government reversed course and began requiring collectors to obtain a special permit from the Ministry of Culture.
This winter, one of these rare collections will be showcased at the Steamboat Art Museum. A private collection of 50 Russian paintings from the 1930s to the 1980s showcases landscapes, celebratory scenes, portraits and Russian history.
Primarily of the socialist realism and impressionism styles, this collection reflects the political and cultural sentiments of the era, with visible brush strokes, ordinary subject matter and an emphasis on natural light. Many of the paintings pay homage to friendly social gatherings, with depictions of a peasant family eating dinner, a wedding and a new year’s celebration.
“Because of Reagan and Gorbachev, Perestroika and glasnost allowed the opening up of Russia, thus allowing Russian art to be experienced by the rest of the world,” says Richard Galusha, co-curator of the S.A.M. exhibit.
The exhibit’s renowned artists include Oleg Leonidovich Lomakin, Fedot Sychkov, Alexandr Gulyayev and Irina Shevandronova. Works by several of these featured artists also can be found in esteemed art museums including The Russian Museum in St. Petersburg and the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.
Russian art exhibit coincides with this winter’s Olympic games in Sochi. As
Steamboat Springs athletes grace Russia’s world stage, their friends and fans
back home will have the opportunity to peer into Russia’s intriguing world of