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  • Provenance

    Ronald Feldman Fine Arts Inc., New York; Private Collection, London

  • Exhibited

    New York, Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid, 7 February-20 March 1976

  • Catalogue Essay

    This canvas was made as a part of the Sots-Art Series, one of the milestone in the history  of unofficial art of the Soviet period. Created in the summer of 1972, the series subsequently turned into a movment in Russian Art that went on to include a number of artists such as Leonid Sokov, Alexander Kosolapov, Rostislav Lebedev, Boris Oriov and Dmitry Prigov.
    Komar & Melamid belong to a generation formed by the 'thaw' of the 1960s thus they did not want to be underground artists but were seeking ways into the public space. They believed that launching an artistic movement would be the appropriate strategy to achieve publicity for artists who were deprived of institutions. The key principle behind the movement was the ironic combination of different styles within one picture. The Meeting between Solzhenitsyn and Boll at Rostropovitch's Country House is one of the richest examples of this sprightly juxtaposition of various styles in the hierarchy of Soviet art school curriculum. The composition of the work is derived from pompous, late official Social Realism manner, with its exaggerated gestures of heroes under a heavy red banner. The ghostly figure of Rostropovitch is made in the 'highly spiritual' style of dissident art of the early thaw. At the same time, the treatment of Heinrich Boll's clothing goes back as far as Russian icon painting of the fifteenth century and the sky outside the window-to the gold of Byzantine mosaic. The still life on the table is a rather crude assortment of -isms; realism, impressionism, cubism and abstract art and references Old Master painting.
    The multiplicity of art styles refers to the electric life-style of the Soviet intelligentsia that divided its time between the ideological restrictions of public life and the secret freedom of private experience. So, as Pop art in the West tried to blur the line between high art and mass culture, Sots art made an attempt to cross the border between private and public. 'We rely not on the individual perception of the artist, but to his or her social experience', stated the Sots art Manifesto of 1972. The subject matter of the picture commemorate the vain desire of Soviet intelligentsia to be in touch with their colleagues in the West. Two Nobel laureates are shaking hands, as Boll is seen to be walking by, he does not see Solzhenitsyn although the latter is looking at Boll with hope. At the time both writers were more glorified abroad than in their home countries: Solzhenitsyn was exiled from Russia and Boll's books were published in Eastern Europe more widely then in West Germany. The Meeting between Solzhenitsyn and Boll at Rostropovitch's Country House is a double reflection of cultural relationships between East and West during the Cold War, an imaginative dual sight from two sides of the Iron Curtain

29

Meeting Between Solzhenitsyn and Böll at Rostropovich's Country House from Sots Art Series

1972
Oil, gold foil and paper collage on canvas.
175 x 120 cm (68 7/8 x 47 1/4 in).

Estimate
£100,000 - 150,000 

Sold for £657,250

BRIC Theme Sale

23-24 April 2010
London