Stalin consolidated his 1950's post-war power by declaring all modernist art “decadent” and “bourgeois.” Those caught practicing it were sent to the gulag, or executed.
So archaeologist Igor Savitsky began his heroic quest to save 44,000 pieces of forbidden art from the masters of Russian modernism by squirreling them away in an Uzbek museum, far from the eyes of the KGB.
When the USSR disintegrated, it seemed the collection would endure. But under an increasingly autocratic Uzbek regime, the museum’s newfound notoriety may be double-edged. Can these masterpieces survive their second threat in a century?
To learn more about the museum and art works, watch The Desert of Forbidden Art on Independent Lens.