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How the Americans saved Malevich

In the pilot programme “carte Blanche”, Moscow Museum of modern art Foundation V-A-C presented the exhibition “Moscow diaries”. Its main characters — an American art historian Alfred Barr and the German philosopher Walter Benjamin. The fact that in Europe, Barr became acquainted with the works of Malevich, and realized that faced with a real miracle to find the new avant-garde principles.

Fragment of the exhibition “Moscow diaries””. Photo: Ivan Erofeev.

What is the art object? What is the value of his copies, what is the role of the Museum in the context of a popular avant-garde? These questions are answered by the exhibition “Moscow diaries” prepared by the Center for experimental museology (TSEM) and the Museum of American art (Moaa) in Berlin. The exhibition is so called because the philosopher Benjamin, while in Moscow, wrote his “Moscow diary”. And art theorist Barr traveled to different cities, so his book was called “Russian diaries” . The organizers have combined the two names in one:

If Barr did not notice the “White square” and took it with him to America, we would have had a different idea about art. About Malevich would probably altogether forgotten.

However, the Americans did not understand and did not accept such “art.” Thus, the 1936 exhibition “Cubism and abstract art”, which repeat the first rooms of the Museum, was conducted by Barr in America. The historian has placed copies of the most important achievements of European painting over the last 30 years (Malevich, Picasso, Rodchenko, and others). He also presented the scheme with a description of what is happening in the art processes (a copy of this scheme you’ll meet here). Barr actually created a “mechanism of art history of the XX century”. And this mechanism still works today.

Through the halls of the Museum is posted “Bad date” — according to the organizers, this is done to create the atmosphere and surroundings of the 1930s.


Fragment of the exhibition “Moscow diaries””. Photo: Ivan Erofeev.

— It is important for us to demonstrate not only the exhibition, but also the history Museum to assess its role. Now museums lose their necessity to modern art, they are not suitable as a platform.

The exhibition has no original, only copies. But that’s the point of the exhibition. The organizers are confident that the role is undervalued copies: you can play by time, date of work and the past and the future. If the work, according to the artist, will be true in 2035, he can create a copy of a picture and to sign the appropriate date. For the avant-garde notion of time at all abstract.

Is this type of exhibition, where the curator is more important than the artist, explain the organizers of the project, is curator sets the mood of the exhibition, interpretirovat her. For the visitor no matter the name of the artist or the titles of his works — he comes to see the art in global terms, not any specific masterpieces.

The composition of the project is even a concept of time in a separate room repeated to the interior of the apartment of the poet Sergei Tretyakov, who took both theorists in their apartment in the different periods. Barr and Benjamin were not familiar, but MOIA and CSE reserves the right to imagine how they would communicate if the meeting did take place.

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