What happens if the history of Russian art is retold from the point of view of female artists? Is it possible to overturn the narrative of artistic progress driven by the male artistic “geniuses” and instead, reclaim and celebrate the influence of female artists upon contemporary Russian art?
Drawing from her interviews with artists and her analysis of their works, curator and art historian Elena Zaitseva is recreating the history of one of the most vibrant periods in art history of Soviet and post-Soviet Russia – Moscow conceptualism – through the lens of the women artists who were there since the 1970s. These include Irina Nakhova, whose works were on display at Tate Modern 2017-18, the artistic duos Rima and Valery Gerlovina, Natalia Abalakova and Anatoly Zhigalov, Elena Elagina and Igor Makarevich, Ilya and Emilia Kabakov. Zaitseva will also delve into the works of artists less known to London audiences but whose contribution to the history of art is no less important: Vera Khlebnikova, Nadezhda Stolpovskaya, Maria Konstantinova, Sabina Hensgen, Maria Chuikova, Larisa Zvesdochetova, focusing on the new ideas and practices they contributed into the circles of artists that formed ‘Moscow Conceptual School’. In that perspective issues of leadership and hierarchies will fade into the background as female-centred stories take on new and long-overdue significance. Zaytseva also touches upon the theme of feminism in Russia as a platform to resist the official ideology in the Soviet Union and as an artistic method.
Elena Zaytseva is an independent curator and historian of art. Until 2020 she was the Associate Curator at Pushkin House, London. From 2003-2007 she worked as a curator at the Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, where she co-curated major exhibitions of contemporary art, collection displays and series of lectures and talks on modern and contemporary art. She curated special projects of the Moscow Biennale of Contemporary art (2005-2007) and exhibitions in independent art spaces in Moscow and London. She holds a PhD from the Research Institute of Theory and History of Fine Arts, Moscow and an MFA Curating from Goldsmiths, University of London. She is a co-editor of Cosmic Shift: Russian Contemporary Art Writing, published in English by ZED Books, London in 2017.
Organised by Professor Sarah Wilson (The Courtauld) and Professor Sussan Babaie (The Courtauld) as part of their Frank Davis Memorial Lecture series titled ‘Exiles and Émigrés’.