A Century Unveiled

It may look like an airport hangar, but the white block building across from Gorky Park is actually home to the country’s only comprehensive collection of 20th-century Russian art.

The museum is the often-overlooked new branch of the famous State Tretyakov Gallery, which houses older, prerevolutionary art. Open for less than a decade, it has a giant collection — more than 60,000 works, only a fraction of which are on display in 42 rooms — and in May the permanent collection was updated and reoorganized to highlight the various artistic currents of the last century. Starting with avant-garde works from as early as 1906, the exhibit moves into art of the twenties and thirties, where Malevich’s “Black Square” keeps company with pieces by Chagall, Rodchenko, and Petrov-Vodkin. The section of official Socialist Realist paintings from the Stalin era is a reminder of the political shadows in which many Soviet artists worked. After decades of repression, their paintings — the so-called “underground” art of the late fifties, sixties, and seventies — are finally on display. It is the first time they’ve been shown in the country as part of a collection since the infamous 1974 “Bulldozer Show” in Moscow, when an unsanctioned open-air exhibit was met with KGB bulldozers and water cannons.

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