The Desert of Forbidden Art

The Savitsky Collection

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  • The Fauvist painting “Crimson Autumn” by Ural Tansykbaev, painted in 1931, depicts a cross-legged figure seated in a richly-hued, forest setting as a mule stands nearby.
    "Crimson Autumn" by Ural Tansykbaev, 1931
  • The painting “Bearded Man” by Ural Tansykbaev depicts a man in colorful attire and skullcap against a patterned background.
    “Bearded Man” by Ural Tansykbaev
  • The 1914 painting “Houses” by Lyubov Popova depicts a drab row of homes nestled into a hillside.
    “Houses” by Lyubov Popova, 1914
  • The 1920 painting “Basmach Man” (Bandit) by Alexey Podkovyrov shows a stern looking, bearded man wearing a turban.
    “Basmach Man” (Bandit) by Alexey Podkovyrov, 1920
  • “Caravan” by Alexander Volkov painted in 1926 depicts a dense gathering of men, women, and camals in a busy desert scene.
    “Caravan” by Alexander Volkov, 1926
  • “Green Teahouse” by Alexander Volkov depicts a peaceful scene of four Muslim men enjoying tea together, as Vladimir Lenin stares from a portrait on the wall behind them.
    “Green Teahouse” by Alexander Volkov
  • “Arba” (Cart) by Alexander Volkov painted in 1924, is a cubist scene resembling a stained-glass window depicting figures riding a horse-drawn cart.
    “Arba” (Cart) by Alexander Volkov, 1924
  • The 1932 painting “Constructing a Road” by Nikolay Karakhan depicts several, shirtless Muslim men in an Islamic urban construction site, as a detatchment of Young Pioneers march in uniform behind them.
    “Constructing a Road” by Nikolay Karakhan, 1932
  • “Road of Life and Death” by Alexander Nikolaev, painted in 1924, depicts a young man who stares out at the viewer, a red sun or flower perched above his white skullcap, against a verdant, Islamic landscape which includes two small figures seated by the river.
    “Road of Life and Death” by Alexander Nikolaev, 1924
  • The dark, cubist painting “On His Knees” by Lev Galperin depicts a man and woman dressed in upper-class attire, seated together, though leaning awkwardly away from one another.
    “On His Knees” by Lev Galperin
  • The surrealist tableau “The Old and the New” by Solomon Nikritin, painted in 1935, depicts an enigmatic scene of two women -- one Venus-like, the other posed like an idealized Soviet woman -- and two men -- one young, the other old -- each handling smooth, floating spheres.
    “The Old and the New” by Solomon Nikritin, 1935
  • “The Bull” by Vladimir Lysenko depicts a wild looking beast staring out at the viewer with void-black eyes and one horn patterned enigmatically with Mondrian-like, colored rectangles.
    “The Bull” by Vladimir Lysenko
  • “Arba” (Cart) by Mikhail Kurzin painted in the 1920s depicts a man seen from the back pulling a cart carrying four women in differently-colored burkas, as a small child seated next to them stares back at the viewer.
    “Arba” (Cart) by Mikhail Kurzin, 1920s
  • The sharp-angled, cubist “Apocalypse” by Alexey Rybnikov, painted in 1918, depicts one of the biblical Riders of the Apocolypse riding a dark horse while handing scales in one hand and a trumpet in the other.
    “Apocalypse” by Alexey Rybnikov, 1918
  • A young Igor Savitsky is pictured wearing a cloth hat which is blowing in the desert wind in this black and white photograph taken by Militza Zemskaya.
    Igor Savitsky, Founder of the Karakalpakstan State Museum of Art
    Photograph by Militza Zemskaya
  • A black and white photograph of artists Alexander Volkov and Ural Tansykbaev sketching as a curious onlooker stands behind them.
    Artists Alexander Volkov and Ural Tansykbaev, 1920s
  • A posed black-and-white photograph of a group of modern artists in Uzbekistan, circa the 1930s.
    Group photo of the artists represented in the Savitsky Collection
    Tashkent, Uzbekistan 1930s
    (Alexander Volkov at top, Nikolay Karakhan to his right, bottom right Ural Tansykbaev)
  • A black and white photograph taken by Max Penson of several Socialist realist artists wearing military-like attire at work in the studio.
    Socialist realist artists at work, by Max Penson
    (no names given of people in photo)

Igor Savitsky single-handedly created the State Art Museum of the Republic of Karakalpakstan in Nukus, Uzbekistan. He began his collection with traditional clothing and textiles created by the Uzbek people in the region, and moved on to collect the works of indigenous artists as well as the underground art of the Uzbekistan school, which melded Asian influences with European expressionism. Ultimately he would make six 1,700-mile trips (each way) to and from Moscow to rescue the avant-garde work of Russian painters whose art was considered degenerate by the Soviet regime. The state preferred “Soviet realism” for propaganda.

In what is now known as the Karakalpak Museum of the Arts, the Savitsky Collection faces a race against time and the elements to survive.