*§211. KOMAR, VITALY and MELAMID, ALEXANDER (B.1943 and B.1945)
Karl Marx and Cornucopia, diptych, each part signed twice, bears a commemorative inscription, titled in Cyrillic and dated 1982 (Karl Marx) and 1982-83 (Cornucopia).
Each oil and tempera on cardboard, 300 by 150 cm (overall size).
Provenance: Acquired directly from the artists by the present owner. Important private collection, Europe.
Authenticity certificate from the artists.
Exhibited:Sots Art. Political Art in Russia and China, The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, 3 March–1 April 2007. Sots Art – Political Art in Russia from 1972 to Today, La Maison Rouge, Paris, 21 October 2007– 20 January 2008.
Karl Marx and Cornucopia by Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid, offered here for auction, is one of the most important Russian Nonconformist works. Created specifically as a work of Sots Art, a recent artistic movement launched by Komar and Melamid in protest against the reactionary official policy towards art and culture in the USSR, the work is significant not only because of its unique style and ironic symbolism, but also as an embodiment of the critical rethinking of the history of the country. Komar thus described the Sots Art movement: “If pop-art was born from the overproduction of things and their advertising, then Sots Art was born from the overproduction of ideology and its propaganda, including visual propaganda... After the end of the Soviet Union, Socialist Realism was put into historical quotation marks and became Sots Art.” ? Karl Marx and Cornucopia was created as a new version of the work destroyed at the infamous Bulldozer Exhibition of 1974. It was ruthlessly swept off its makeshift stall in a park in Belyaevo, a Moscow suburb, together with works by Vladimir Nemukhin, Oscar Rabin and Vasily Sitnikov, whilst the artists themselves were beaten, verbally abused or even arrested. As a result, great number of extraordinary original and daring works had been destroyed. The assault, unparalleled in its brutality against the freedom of expression through art, resonated throughout Europe and the USA, leading to an overnight cultural revolution in Russia, whereby Nonconformist artists, previously largely ignored, suddenly became real heroes.
Dedicated to the ten-year anniversary of the Bulldozer exhibition, Karl Marx and Cornucopia not only repeats the composition of the earlier, destroyed version, but also gains a new meaning through it. It becomes a monument to Russia’s unofficial art as a whole and to the everlasting struggle between the freedom of creative expression and conservatism and insularity of official regulations that strive to undermine it. It is for this reason that Komar and Melamid ended up with a work of a much larger format than they had planned originally. From this standpoint, the work acquires an independent status, and its symbolism becomes universal, thus greatly enhancing the significance of the painting.