5 June 2013 Russian Art Auctions

5 June 2013

Artist Index / Full Catalogue

Double Portrait of Alexander Melamid.

* 316. KOMAR, VITALY and MELAMID, ALEXANDER (B.1943 and B. 1945)

Double Portrait of Alexander Melamid.

Oil and tempera on cardboard, laid on board, 69 by 97.5 cm (board size).
15,000–20,000 GBP

Executed c. 1972.

Provenance: Collection of Alexander Melamid’s family, Israel.
A gift from the above to the present owner in the late 1970s.
Private collection, Israel.

Authenticity of the work has been confirmed by the artist V. Komar.

Exhibited: Exhibition of non-conformist art at the flat of the mathematician Andrei Pashenkov, Moscow, 1973.

The rare Double Portrait of Alexander Melamid, dated 1972 – is a product of the famous creative union between Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid. A tongue-in-cheek parody of Soviet posters and Socialist Realist portraiture, this work was one of the first in the Sots Art series which was born the same year. Most of the surviving works from Komar and Melamid’s oeuvre prior to their emigration in 1977 are on canvas, with very few on cardboard. This makes the offered painting a real rarity on the art market.

Vitaly Komar recalls: “This diptych, one of two double works, was exhibited at the flat of the mathematician Andrei Pashenkov. That is, it was exhibited with its pair, a diptych similar in style and size [portrait of Vitaly Komar]”. According to the artist, the exhibition also included the artists’ famous self-portraits as Lenin and Stalin, and the double portraits of their wives.

This diptych is the quintessence of Sots Art, a new model of conceptual art constructed by Komar and Melamid which shone a new light on the founding principles of Socialist Realism. The irritating, moralising rhetoric of Soviet posters and the optimistic realism of portraits and genre scenes were used by the artists in parodied reflections of Stalinist reality, as well as of themselves and their Bohemian milieu.

The anti-slogan imbedded in this ironically heroic portrait of Melamid, depicted as a bearded, bespectacled intellectual, tramples all over the foundations of the ideologically-saturated official Soviet art. The artists used familiar Socialist Realist clichés: the Komsomol-esque cocked head is executed on one side in the academic tradition, and in the other, like an agitprop poster. Yet this image, created using all the outward symbols of the intellectual, does not exude the optimism expected of one building a bright future, but looks down on the socialist reality from on high.

Notes on symbols:
* Indicates 5% Import Duty Charge applies.
Ω Indicates 20% Import Duty Charge applies.
§ Indicates Artist's Resale Right applies.
† Indicates Standard VAT scheme applies, and the rate of 20% VAT will be charged on both hammer price and premium.