Ernst Iosifovich Neizvestny (Russian: Эрнст Ио́сифович Неизве́стный) (born 1925) is a Russian sculptor. He lives and works in New York City.
Non Conformist Post Soviet Avant Garde
Neizvestny was born 9 April 1925 in Sverdlovsk (now Yekaterinburg). In 1942, at the age of 17, he joined the Red Army as a volunteer. At the close of World War II, he was heavily wounded and sustained a clinical death. Although he was awarded the Order of the Red Star and his mother received an official notification that her son had died, Neizvestny managed to survive.
In 1947, Neizvestny was enrolled at the Art Academy of Latvia in Riga. He continued his education at the Surikov Moscow Art Institute and the Philosophy Department of the Moscow State University. His sculptures, often based on the forms of the human body, are noted for their expressionism and powerful plasticity. Although his preferred material is bronze, his larger, monumental installations are often executed in concrete. Most of his works are arranged in extensive cycles, the best known of which is The Tree of Life, a theme he has developed since 1956.
Although Nikita Khrushchev famously derided Neizvestny's works as "degenerate" art at the Moscow Manege exhibition of 1962 ("Why do you disfigure the faces of Soviet people?"), the sculptor was later approached by Khruschev's family to design a tomb for the former Soviet leader at the Novodevichy Cemetery. Other well-known works he created during the Soviet period are Prometheus in Artek (1966).
During the 1980s, Neizvestny was a visiting lecturer at the University of Oregon and at UC Berkeley. He also worked with Magna Gallery in San Francisco, and had a number of shows which were well-attended in the mid 1980s. This gallery also asked him to create his "Man through the Wall" series to celebrate the end of Communism at the end of the 1980s. Magna Gallery closed at the end of 1992
In 1996, Neizvestny completed his Mask of Sorrow, a 15-meter tall monument to the victims of Soviet purges, situated in Magadan. The same year, he was awarded the State Prize of the Russian Federation. Although he still lives in New York City and works at Columbia University, Neizvestny frequently visits Moscow and celebrated his 80th birthday there. A museum dedicated to his sculptures was established in Uttersberg, Sweden. Some of his crucifixion statues were acquired by John Paul II for the Vatican Museums. In 2004 Neizvestny became an honorary member of the Russian Academy of Arts.
Museum and Public Collections
Museum of Modern Art, New York
The Jewish Museum, New York
Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, Washington, D.C.
Duke University Museum of Art, Durham, North Carolina
Museum of Art, University of California, Berkeley, California
Jane Voohrees Zimmerli Museum, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey
United Nations, New York
The State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg
The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
The State Pushkin Museum, Moscow
Dostoevsky Museum, Moscow
ART4.RU Contemporary Art Museum, Moscow
Museum of Fine Arts, Kursk
Museum of Fine Arts,Vologda
Museum of Fine Arts,Volgograd
Museum of Modern Ecclesiastical Art, Vatican, Rome
Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden
Tree of Life Museum, Uttersberg, Sweden
Sven-Olov Anderson’s Torg, Koping, Sweden
Thielska Galleriet, Stockholm, Sweden
Oslo Municipal Art Collection, Norway
Municipality of Oslo Art Collection, Norway
Israel Museum, Jerusalem
Tel Aviv Museum of Modern Art, Tel Aviv
Lvov Gallery, Lvov, Ukraine
Museum of Modern Art, Belgrade, Serbia
Yerevan Gallery, Yerevan, Armenia
Monuments and Public Commissions
Lotus Blossom, Aswan Dam, Egypt
Tree of Life II, United Nations, New York
Bust of Dmitri Shostakovich for the Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C.
Tree of Life, Moscow
Prometheus, 15m stainless steel sculpture for Electro-Expo 72 exhibition, Moscow
Wings for the Institute of Light Alloys, Moscow
Rebirth (Archangel Michael), Moscow
Nikita Khrushchev’s tombstone at Novodevichiy Cemetery, Moscow
Mask of Mourning, Memorial to the Victims of Stalinism, Magadan, Russia
Exodus and Return, Monument to The Kalmykian Deportation, Elista, Kalmykia, Russia
970-meter decorative relief for Institute of Electronics and Technology, Zelenograd, Russia
Monument to the Coal Miners, Kemerovo, Russia
Monument to Sergei Diaghilev, Perm, Russia
Monument to World’s Children, 150-meter decorative relief for Artek Pioneer Camp in the Crimea, Ukraine
Golden Child, Odessa, Ukraine
Great Centaur, United Nations, Geneva
Centaur and Stone Tears, Belgrade, Serbia
Mask of Grief, Tombstone for Centaur, Milan, Italy
Fragment of Centaur, Vasteras, Sweden