Banned: Savitsky and the Secret Hoard of Avant-Garde Art
Wednesday 2nd September 2020
Chris Aslan Alexander
Russian Avant-Garde Art flourished during the first thirty years of the 20th Century, but as Stalin rose to power all but Socialist Realist expressions of art were banned. To own anything else was dangerous, and to start collecting it was unthinkable; yet that is exactly what Igor Savitsky did: he amassed the world’s second largest collection of Russian Avant-Garde art.
The remote location of the State Museum of Karakalpakstan, near the south shores of the Aral Sea, meant that Savitsky was able to get away with such subversive activity because even the authorities in Moscow were a little hazy as to where exactly Karakalpakstan was. Savitsky promoted Russian artists sent to Central Asia in exile as well as the first Central Asian artists to paint their own people and landscapes.
Chris spent his childhood in Turkey and in war-torn Beirut. After school he spent two years at sea before studying media and journalism at Leicester. After university he moved to Khiva, a desert oasis in Uzbekistan, where he established a UNESCO workshop reviving fifteenth century carpet designs and embroideries.
After a year in the UK writing A Carpet Ride to Khiva, he spent three years in the Pamirs in Tajikistan, training yak herders to comb their yaks for their cashmere-like down. Next came two years in Kyrgyzstan, living in the world’s largest natural walnut forest and establishing a wood-carving workshop. Chris has recently finished rowing and studying at Oxford, and a curacy at St. Barnabas in North Finchley. He is now taking two years out to focus on writing fiction. As well as lecturing for the Arts Society he leads tours to Central Asia, where a large part of his heart remains.
This lecture was streamed online on Wednesday 2nd September 2020 at 11:00am.
Just before the coronavirus lockdown in March, Chris recorded a YouTube lecture on Soviet Propaganda in Central Asian Monumental Art. This can be viewed by clicking on the following link: