E scape Artists is our dedicated sale of unofficial Russian art from the post-war era, the so-called Soviet non-conformists or second avant-garde. These artists were a loosely affiliated group of disparate artistic communities, who sought to escape the ideological confines of Soviet visual culture, existing on its fringes if not in direct opposition to it. Many of these artists emigrated, either voluntarily or having been forced out of the country by the Soviet authorities.
One of the earliest collectives represented in the sale is the Lianozovo group, which included Oskar Rabin and Vladimir Nemukhin among others. The auction also features key Moscow-based artists who emerged in the 1960s and 1970s, such as Oleg Tselkov, Dmitri Plavinsky, Eduard Steinberg and Dmitri Krasnopevtsev. The Sretensky Boulevard group is represented by Ilya Kabakov, Viktor Pivovarov, Oleg Vassiliev and Vladimir Yankilevsky, all of whom were associated with the Moscow Conceptualists. The auction also includes the Sots Art artists Erik Bulatov, Komar & Melamid and Leonid Sokov, whose work is characterised by the subversive appropriation of Soviet mass-cultural imagery.
In the late 1950s Oskar Rabin, his wife Valentina Kropivnitskaya and father-in-law Evgeny Kropivnitsky founded the Lianozovo group, a creative association of poets and artists named after Lianozovo district in Moscow where most of the members lived and worked. The Lianozovo artists were considered dissidents and often harassed by Soviet officials. In 1965 Rabin became one of the first Soviet non-conformists to hold an exhibition in the West, with seventy of his works exhibited at Eriс Estorick’s Grosvenor Gallery in London. He was also the main ideologist behind the 1974 Bulldozer exhibition, which was raided by the police and closed down. The exhibition was a seminal event in the history of Soviet non-official art, and Rabin was eventually arrested and expelled from the Soviet Union.
The sale includes 26 lots (97-122) from the collection put together by Kenda and Jacob Bar-Gera, who played a crucial role in promoting works by the non-conformists and helped preserve their legacy.