At the end of the Cold War the Soviet Union had vanished and Russia was devastated economically. Russian art languished, unwanted and unappreciated. Disregard for Russian art was reinforced by Western critics and art historians who for years prior to the Soviet collapse criticized contemporary Soviet painting as backwards and anachronistic without consideration for individual talent. During the early nineties only a few visionary collectors and dealers bothered to question the conventional thinking and actually look at art created in Russia during the Soviet period. Those dealers and collectors were amazed by the variety of art and artists they discovered.
My personal revelation came about in the late nineties when the first examples of what was then termed Russian Impressionism were introduced to the American art market. I’ll never forget standing in the gallery where I worked, holding a small Russian landscape in my hands that easily eclipsed every other work currently in the gallery inventory. That was all the proof I needed to forget about the normal assumptions regarding Russian art. The deeper I looked the more convinced I became that during the Soviet period one of the most significant schools of twentieth century art was created.
Today I collect Russian paintings; buy them, sell them, own them. Over the last twenty years the old assumptions about twentieth century Russian art have given way to new perspectives. Many critics and art historians now agree that Soviet Russia produced outstanding artists. One of the best and most enigmatic of these was Boris Chetkov (1926-2010), a survivor of Stalin’s labor camps and member of a penal battalion during WWII. You may assume that having lived through such horrific events an artist would present a bleak view of the world, but with Chetkov quite the opposite is true. He endured hardship and isolation but discovered brilliance and optimism within. Painting freely for himself, liberated in his mind, as all the best artists in any age are, his work surprises and delights. This exhibition of twenty eight masterworks by Boris Chetkov is our gallery’s second exhibition of his paintings and part of a continued re-appraisal of postwar Russian art happening worldwide. We hope you enjoy these rare works created by a gifted individual who overcame many of the worst events of the twentieth century to become one of the best artists of his age.
Vail International Gallery