GARAGE MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART PRESENTS:
IF OUR SOUP CAN COULD SPEAK: MIKHAIL LIFSHITZ AND THE SOVIET SIXTIES
March 7–May 13, 2018
This exhibition celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the scandalous publication, in 1968, of The Crisis of Ugliness by Soviet philosopher and art critic Mikhail Lifshitz.
The book was an anthology of polemical texts against cubism and pop art—and one of the only intelligent discussions of modernism’s social context and overall logic available in the Soviet Union—making it popular even among those who disagreed with Lifshitz’s conclusions.
The result of a three-year Garage Field Research project, If our soup can could speak takes as its starting point Lifshitz’s book and other related writings to re-explore the vexed relations between progressive art and politics in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, as well as the motivations and implications of Lifshitz’s lonely crusade against the modern classics. Using archival material, reproductions, original artworks, fragments of films, and performative elements, the exhibition reveals how Lifshitz’s scathing critique of modernism’s complicity with totalitarianism and consumerism has more in common with contemporaries like Theodor Adorno or Guy Debord than with standard-issue Soviet condemnations of art from the West. Accordingly, the project provides a subtle, richly-sourced discussion around the contradictions of “art after art,” seen at a remove from behind the Iron Curtain, full of incisive observations and creative misunderstandings. An untimely, even tragic figure, Lifshitz’s radical Hegelian diagnosis of an ailing world spirit seems more relevant than ever.
Initiated by artist-curators David Riff and Dmitry Gutov, the initial Field Research project (through which the exhibition was developed) involved a combination of archival mining, translation, and creative explorations of the controversial themes and dramatic historical contexts of Mikhail Lifshitz’s work. Since November 2015, the research team has reviewed more than 200 folders of documents from public archives such as the Russian State Archive of Literature and Arts (RGALI) and the State Tretyakov Gallery, as well as the private archives of Lifshitz’s daughter, Anna Pichikyan, and others. Retrieved documents include unpublished questionnaires, records of political purges, correspondence, manuscripts, stenographs of Lifshitz's lectures, personal photographs, and Lifshitz’s unpublished, rediscovered dissertation. These more conventional research methods were complemented by a large-scale visual experiment—both online and offline—into the references and sources of Lifshitz’s work and its institutional and everyday contexts, as seen in pictures and films.
Artists include: Albrecht Dürer, Oleg Filatchev, Valery Khabarov, Larisa Kirillova, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol.
Mikhail Lifshitz (b. 1905, Melitopol–1983, Moscow) was a philosopher, cultural theorist, and one of the most influential Russian intellectuals of the twentieth century. After a short study at VKhUTEMAS (the Higher Art and Technical Studios) in the early 1920s, he abandoned art to focus instead on philosophy. It was here that Lifshitz began to reconstruct and formulate a communist humanist aesthetic derived from Marx’s own scattered statements on art. In 1933, Lifshitz published the monograph The Philosophy of Art of Karl Marx, later translated to English, German, Spanish, and other languages, as was the anthology Marx and Engels on Literature and Art (1937). In the mid- to late 1930s, Lifshitz became famous as one of the few remaining outspoken literary critics. He also worked as an editor and popularizer of classic authors, and held the post of Assistant Director of Scholarship at the Tretyakov Gallery from 1938 to 1941. Having become a victim of the anti-Semitic campaigns of the late 1940s, Lifshitz returned to public view in the mid-1960s with his uncompromising criticism of modernism in art. The majority of Lifshitz’s writing has only been published since his death in 1983, revealing a more complicated, unfinished oeuvre, resistant to both official Soviet cultural policy and to the modernist and modernist-inspired art that seemingly opposed it.
If our soup can could speak: Mikhail Lifshitz and the Soviet Sixties is curated by David Riff and Dmitry Gutov in collaboration with Garage curator Anastasia Mityushina.
GARAGE MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART
Garage Museum of Contemporary Art is a place for people, art, and ideas to create history. Through an extensive program of exhibitions, events, education, research, and publishing, the institution reflects on current developments in Russian and international culture, creating opportunities for public dialogue, as well as the production of new work and ideas in Moscow. At the center of all these activities is the Museum’s collection, which is the first archive in the country related to the development of Russian contemporary art from the 1950s through the present. Founded in 2008 by Dasha Zhukova and Roman Abramovich, Garage is the first philanthropic organization in Russia to create a comprehensive public mandate for contemporary art and culture. Open seven days a week, it was initially housed in the renowned Bakhmetevsky Bus Garage in Moscow, designed by the Constructivist architect Konstantin Melnikov. In 2012 Garage relocated to a temporary pavilion in Gorky Park, specifically commissioned from award-winning architect Shigeru Ban. A year later, a purpose-built Education Center was opened next to the Pavilion. On June 12, 2015, Garage welcomed visitors to its first permanent home. Designed by Rem Koolhaas and his OMA studio, this groundbreaking preservation project transformed the famous Vremena Goda (Seasons of the Year) Soviet Modernist restaurant, built in 1968 in Gorky Park, into a contemporary museum.
Garage is a non-profit project of The IRIS Foundation.
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About UNIQLO and Fast Retailing
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As part of the strategic partnership between UNIQLO and Garage, a series of special events and activities is planned. Garage and UNIQLO has launched UNIQLO Free Friday Nights, continuing the tradition of free admission for all visitors every Friday evening at such key art institutions as MoMa in New York and Tate in London. Garage visitors can enjoy free admission to all exhibitions every Friday between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. (ticket valid until the Museum closes). UNIQLO and Garage have ambitious plans for the forthcoming year—joint workshops, lectures on contemporary art and fashion, and numerous other events. Visitors to Garage Café can find out more about the brand from the UNIQLO LifeWear Book, which gives an overview of UNIQLO, its current collections, and the company’s innovative methods of apparel production.
A special zone focusing on the partnership between UNIQLO and Garage opened in UNIQLO Atrium, Moscow, in September 2017. Customers can immerse themselves in the art world with books and magazines about art, fashion, and contemporary culture. The zone is also a space for free lectures and master classes, as well as special projects by Garage.
Ingosstrakh has been a major player in both the Russian and international markets since 1947. The company is the national leader in Russia based on total insurance premiums in the voluntary insurance sector (not including life insurance). Ingosstrakh is authorized to handle all types of insurance services (in accordance with the insurance company’s specialization) specified in Article 32.9 of the Insurance Law of the Russian Federation, as well as reinsurance services. For many years, Ingosstrakh has provided insurance services for important works of art and other valuable historical objects. The company has 149 locations throughout Russia, as well as branches and subsidiaries worldwide.
Ingosstrakh is the Official Insurance Partner of Garage Museum of Contemporary Art for the second year running. On November 16, 2017, the company celebrates its 70th anniversary, making it one of the most experienced and reliable players in the market. Ingosstrakh is a company that keeps pace with the times and is open to change. In its anniversary year, the company will undergo a major update with the strapline “Ingosstrakh 7.0: Seventh Generation Insurance,” which reflects both the company’s experience and its focus on innovation. Experience permits a better understanding of customers and the products they need, as well as improved interaction. Innovation is associated primarily with the development of client services and the expansion of opportunities to purchase products online. For Ingosstrakh, the partnership with Garage is an important stage in expanding cooperation with leading museums in Russia and across the world. The company insures the artworks exhibited and, jointly with the Museum, implements a wide range of special programs for visitors.
BMW GROUP RUSSIA
BMW Group has had a presence in the art world for many years thanks to its BMW Art Car project that lists artists like Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, Roy Lichtenstein, Frank Stella, and César Manrique among its participants. Since racing driver and art enthusiast Hervé Poulain invited Alexander Calder to paint the first car in 1975, some of the world’s biggest artists have created nineteen unique designs based on the company’s models. BMW Group is also a long-time partner of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York and has organized long-term projects in collaboration with Tate Modern in London and the National Gallery in Berlin.
Garage helps to promote art and culture and inspire millions of people to discover new things. For BMW Group, which celebrated its centenary in 2016, the partnership with Garage is a wonderful opportunity to support contemporary art. Starting from 2017, BMW Group supports one of the Museum’s main programs, offering Art and Technology grants to contemporary artists.