Kathy Hinde

25 January, 2020



On my last few days in Moscow, I visited some galleries, gave a talk to some students at the Rodchecko School of Art, and squeezed in some site-seeing too.

I visited the Tretyakov Gallery to see an exhibition dedicated to re-creating the “Museum of Pictorial Culture”, to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the First Museum of Contemporary Art. More info Here.  I was very privileged to be guided around the exhibition by the curator, Lyubov Pchelkina, who gave a hugely enlightening perspective on the significance of this particularly unique collection and period of Russian Contemporary Art. We were joined by Andrey Smirnov who added some contextual background relating to music and sound experimentation during this period to further enrich the experience.

This re-creation of the “Museum of Pictorial Culture” documents the story of this state funded Museum from the 1920s created to collect and commission contemporary art. Following the revolution, with a new lease of freedom of new ideas, the museum collection was curated by leading Avant Garde artists of the time such as Kandinsky, Malevich, and Tatlin. It was a unique time in the history of Russian art, with the collection being distributed all over Russia to give all communities access to contemporary art through a network of “Museum’s of Pictorial Culture”. This continued for 10 years, until the political changes of the 1930’s, leading to much of the Avant Garde being dubbed as ‘bourgeois’, and abstract art being banned from museums in favour of Social Realism. The collection was mainly placed in storage until as recently as 1995.

This exhibition is the first time the collection has been brought back together, in the context of the ‘Museum of Pictorial Culture’. The show includes documentation on how the collection came about, alongside notebooks and sketchbooks of the artists. I have long been a fan of Kandinsky especially due to his experiments combining music and visual art. It was a great pleasure to see his ‘Improvisation of Cold Forms’ (below) in real life, alongside the striking work of Malevich, (Dynamic Suprematism No 57, 1916, below left), Lissitszky, Popova and Rodchenko. Poster for the opening of the Museum of Pictorial Culture in the building of Vkhutemas, October 15th 1924 (below right).

Towards the end of the exhibition, there was a whole room dedicated to Solomon Nikritin’s ‘Projectionist’ philosophy. I already had some knowledge of this from Andrey Smirnov’s book ‘Sound in Z’, and it was great to have Andrey present to elaborate further. ‘Projectionism’ foregrounds the idea of ‘Method’ and embraces interdisciplinary practice and research.  “Rejecting traditional arts, Nikritin proclaimed the universal principles, common for all future arts, as being related to subjects such as sound, image, biomechanics and social engineering. The new language of art, for him, was based on terms such as stream, dynamics and density. Nikritin tried to develop a typology and classification system of human movements and gestures, colour palettes, sounds (mainly related to the human voice) as well as emotional states, based on the principles and terms of biomechanics, musical harmony and acoustics.” Quote from “Sound in Z” p15 There is much to be explored in Nikritin’s ideas, and one aspect examined at the Tretyakov show is his analysis and theories that relate sound and colour. Solomon Nikritin “Variations of Tones and Noises” (below).