The Russian avant-garde visits Crete

An exhibit which opens today at the Center of Contemporary Art in Rethymnon (at 5 Heimaras), Crete, offers the public the opportunity to look at the works produced by some of the Russian avant-garde’s most seminal artists. The exhibit Russian Avant-Garde, Selec- tions from the Kostakis Collection gives a sense of the kinds of movements that had the most profound effects on the course of 20th-century Western art. If many of these works have survived to today, it is thanks to Giorgos Kostakis who collected them at a time when they were severely censored by the Stalinist regime. His first acquisition was a work by Rozanova which he bought in 1946. Subsequent buys resulted in an extensive collection, one of the most important of the Russian avant-garde. The State Museum of Contemporary Art in Thessaloniki recently bought a large portion of this collection, but most of the collection’s works are still owned by the Tretyakov Gallery. The current exhibit, which consists of works that belong to the museum in Thessaloniki, includes a total of 40 pieces by artists Rodchenko, Malevich, Popova, Nikritin, Lissitzky and many other artists of the so-called Russian avant-garde. These are the kinds of questions addressed in Open Plan P3 – the marathon, an exhibit held jointly at Alpha Delta and Artio galleries. Suhail Malik, curator of the exhibit and professor at London’s Goldsmith College, has here grouped some of the trendiest names of the contemporary British art scene to address whether a democratic, flexible political and social system compromises or advances art’s radicalism. He argues that societies operating on democratic principles push the limits of art to justify their open-mindedness and underline their tolerance, but at the same time constrict art’s limits by either simplifying its content to effect accessibility for a broad audience or by neutralizing its potential for change by fitting it into society’s own interests. With contemporary art framed in an overall system of subsidies, museum policies and marketing strategies, one needs perhaps to rethink what critical and radical art amounts to in our days.

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