Information on the Museum and its Collection of Russian Avant-Garde Art
Even the name of the museum sounds innovative. It presupposes a look at what avant-garde art really is. The museum’s collection explores the forces that cause people to realise what has come before them, what is new and where the pioneering energy of an artist lies.
MAGMA’s collection includes 300 works that were gathered over the course of seven years, a relatively short period for such a collection. The clear vision behind the museum’s concept made the work go faster. This is not just a collection of works based on someone’s likes and dislikes. A list of artists was compiled in advance and the works were acquired systematically. The museum boasts the largest and best private collection of works by Chaim Soutine.
It took time to develop the concept behind the museum. But in the end, all the preparation resulted in a very harmonious collection of works by thirty great Russian Jewish artists who are recognised as geniuses abroad. The paradoxical character of the collection is that, although these artists are highly regarded all over the world, many people in Russia know nothing about their works or even that they exist at all.
Take Ossip Zadkine, for example. Jacques Chirac, when he was mayor of Paris, placed a lot of sculptures by Zadkine everywhere in the French capital. A full catalogue of his works has also been published. In the introduction Mr. Chirac, who was then President of France, wrote: “The great French sculptor Ossip Zadkine was born in Smolensk.” But if we ask Smolensk citizens, most probably few of them will remember such a sculptor. Or another example: there is a famous monument by Ossip Zadkine in Rotterdam, and in Geneva there is an outstanding monument by another sculptor, Antoine Pevsner. And none of the citizens in those cities are apparently aware that they both are from Russia.
It is accepted that most outstanding masters and top-level artists have a personal creative method that is unique. One of the most prominent modern artists is Mark Rothko from Dvinsk (Daugavpils), now living in the U.S. he invented a language of communication between a human being and the Almighty leaving out any figurative images. He found the minimal, most concise and expressive language. This language has enormous artistic diversity as opposed to works by Malevich, where there are just theorems but no big artistic diversity. Mark Rothko brought this concise and perfectly original pioneering language to perfection.
The collection also includes works by the artist Grigory Bruskin. Although he cannot be considered a top-level master, his works are valuable to us, especially in light of his contribution to forming the ideology of the collection. Grigory Bruskin has found his own language and therefore is absolutely recognisable. He is the creator of a very interesting project that is called Alephbet (The Alphabet). It is a tapestry, a fundamental work, 11 x 3 metres, hand made, on which 160 stories from the Torah are woven.
The concept behind the collection has more to do with education than art criticism. Its task is to show that Russia is not only a source of natural wealth, but also a powerful source of spiritual life and culture. There are still many various forms of Russophobia in the world, not confined to politics alone. This project is an integral part of an international programme called the Jewish Positioning System (JPS), which was created to influence public opinion about Jews using positive examples and focusing on their contributions to society and the country. The JPS programme also serves to strengthen the national identity of Jews and fight assimilation.