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  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artists
    Important Private Collection, Europe

  • Exhibited

    Moscow, State Tretyakov Gallery, Sots Art. Political Art in Russia and China, 3 March — 1 April 2007
    Paris, La Maison Rouge, Sots-art. Political art in Russia from 1972 to now, 21 October 2007 — 20 January 2008

  • Catalogue Essay

    “If pop-art was born by the overproduction of things and their advertising, then Sots Art was born of the overproduction of ideology and its propaganda, including visual propaganda… Afer the end of the Soviet Union an occurrence of Social Realism was put into historical quotation marks and became Sots Art.” VITALY KOMAR

    Karl Marx and Cornucopia, painted in 1982, is the second and the only existing version of a picture originally executed in 1972-73 by the USSR born American artistic duo Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid on a much smaller scale. The original version was destroyed among other works in 1974 at the famous Bulldozer exhibition, the unofficial avant-garde art show in Belyayevo forest in Moscow which was forcefully shut down by the police force employing bulldozers and water cannons. Most of the works were destroyed by the attackers who were not shy of using force on both artworks and people. The artists, spectators and foreign journalists were taken prisoner at the event which became one of the most well known public acts of non-conformist art in USSR.

    In Karl Marx and Cornucopia (1982), painted for the anniversary of Bulldozer exhibition, the cornucopia, the symbol of abundance and nourishment, acts as a mythological metaphor to the industrial bucket of melted metal that became the socialist realist motif of agitprop. These images play an important role in the artists' oeuvre and are later repeated in the Bayonne series of works dedicated to caster labour. Consisting of two canvases, the present work embodies the mergence of artistic styles – Cubism/Futurism and the classical Academism. The left part of the diptych depicts the portrait of Karl Marx painted in the Cubist manner, while the right one painted in the traditional Social Realist style advocated by the Soviet State. This conceptual eclecticism, as it was named by the authors, has been continuously employed throughout their oeuvre as a conceptual tool in their desire to break the boundaries imposed by the State and its ideology.

    The present work has been painted solo by Vitaly Komar, but considered a product of the artistic collaboration and signed as Komar and Melamid, as all the works executed by either of the artists since the end of 1972. The pair met while studying at Stroganov School of Art, began collaborating soon after. Their first collaborative exhibition was held in 1967 in Blue Bird Cafe in Moscow. This was beginning of the journey that led them to establish the Sots Art movement built around the satiric appropriation and juxtaposition of Western Pop Art with Soviet Social Realism. The daring expression of their ideas and personal take on Socialist ideology mixed with notes on Western consumerist ideas led the artists to be charged with ‘distortion of Soviet Reality’ and to their expulsion from the Union of Artists in 1973. This, however, only encouraged the artists to continue creating controversial works ‘underground’ and smuggling them to the US, where they held their first international show in 1976 at Ronald Feldman Gallery in New York. Having relocated there two years later, the duo subsequently became internationally known iconic Soviet émigrés whose collaboration lasted for 30 years.

    “Even if only one of us creates some of the projects and works, we usually sign them together. We are not just an artist, we are a movement.” KOMAR AND MELAMID


Karl Marx and Cornucopia (Diptych)

oil and tempera on hardboard
each 150 x 150 cm. (59 x 59 in.)
overall 300 x 150 cm. (118 x 59 in.)

Signed, titled, dated and annotated 'Vitaliy Komar and Alik Melamid "Karl Marx and Cornucopia" Diptych Author's version of the lost original from 1973, made for the 10 year anniversary of Buldozer exhibition of 1982' on the reserve of each panel. This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity.

£250,000 - 350,000 

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
[email protected]
+44 207 318 4063

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Evening Sale 10 February 2014 7pm