Russian avant-garde art in Thessaloniki

M onopolizing Thessaloniki art lovers’ interest since last week, Alexander Rodchenko and Lyubov Popova are two of the central figures of the Russian avant-garde and Constructivism. The exhibition «Rodchenko and Popova: Defining Constructivism,» which drew 102,155 visitors to London’s Tate Modern, is now on display at the Lazariston Monastery until October. Setting up an exhibit on the groundbreaking Russians would have been difficult without the contribution of the State Museum of Contemporary Art; Katerina Koskina, president of the board, dubbed it the bastion of Russian avant-garde collections. In agreement were the curators of the exhibition, Vicente Todoli (director of Tate Modern) and Margarita Tupitsyn, who were extremely pleased with the British museum’s first collaboration with its Greek counterpart. In seeking to reassess the work and assorted movements of the Russian avant-garde, Tate Modern slowly accumulated 350 paintings, sketches, mechanical constructions, photographs, theater sets, book jackets, garment designs and more in order to explore the evolution of Constructivism through the works of two of its most important creators: Rodchenko (1891-1956) and Popova (1898-1924). The exhibition focuses on the first artists to embrace the utopian Bolshevik ideal. Over 200 works by Popova show that the artist, despite her death at an early age, proceeded to «travel through the entirety of Symbolism, Cubo-Futurism, Suprematism and Productivism,» as SMMA Director Maria Tsantsanoglou observed. Rodchenko turned to photography in 1921, but, thanks to collector George Costakis’s careful preservation of his paintings, his early work is well represented. A large part of the Costakis collection, which will be shown to the public for the first time, includes material that highlights the friendship he shared with Vladimir Mayakovsky. The two of them collaborated, using words and imagery to tout the goods offered by the USSR’s state industry. After Thessaloniki, the exhibition will move to Madrid’s Reina Sofia Museum.