4 июня 2014
Lenin Hails a Cab in New York, from the Series "Monumental Propaganda/Lenin's Tomb", signed, inscribed with the artists' names, titled and dated 1993 on the reverse.
Oil and tempera on canvas, 102 by 76 cm.
Provenance: Private collection, USA.
Authenticity of the work has been confirmed by Vitaly Komar.
Related literature: For the other version of the present lot, see The New Yorker, New York, 12 July 1993, reproduced on the cover.
Exhibition catalogue, It’s the Real Thing: Soviet and Post-Soviet Sots Art and American Pop Art, Minneapolis, Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum, 1998, reproduced on the cover.
Athanor XXIII, Tallahassee, Florida State University, Department of Art History, 2005, reproduced on the cover.
Lenin Hails a Cab in New York is an iconic piece by Komar and Melamid painted in 1993, a period of political unrest and popularized destruction of the past in Russia. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the October Putsch in 1993, Russia embarked on the path to its newest history, taking down and destroying Soviet monuments, symbols and signs. Together with Independent Curators, Komar and Melamid, by that time already living in New York, began the Monumental Propaganda project in an attempt to preserve the historical lessons of the Soviet past for future generations. More than 200 Russian and Western artists participated in the project, creating artwork on theme of the preservation of monuments, which received extensive press coverage and subsequent public resonance in Russia.
The present lot is the first, original version of this composition. Despite its relatively small size, the canvas possesses monumental, almost mural-like qualities. The tall figure of Lenin, as if defying the streets of New York, is echoed by the Chrysler Building and the red flag of the fast-food eatery in the background – the new symbols of the capitalist world dressed in communist symbols: the red of the MacDonald’s flag and red Kremlin star on top of the Chrysler building. This juxtaposition is what creates a strong and powerful image of its time, so much so that another version of this canvas was published on the cover of the New Yorker Magazine in 1993.
Addressing the issue of iconoclasm, the present work depicts Lenin in a pose familiar from multiple monuments across the major public spaces in Russia. Taking the iconic image out of its usual context and placing Lenin on the streets of New York transforms him from a leader of revolution to a regular passer-by engaged in the simple, humdrum act of hailing a cab. The narrative of the picture is developed though the collision of a real character with his utopian surroundings, addressing nostalgia and banality through mockery and humor. Through this unique interpretation, Komar and Melamid reveal all that stands behind Moscow Conceptualism of the 20th century.
To quote Professor A. Leigh-Perlman of Montclair State University in Future Ruins: Time, Memory and History in the Work of Komar and Melamid: “Komar and Melamid’s art from the past three decades has been characterized by many important themes and has utilized a wide variety of media and subject matter. As vanguards of Moscow’s particular brand of Conceptualism, they have helped close this dramatic century with a temporal concern for the past as it colors our present and guides us into the future. The two-fold process of remembering and repeating acted out in much of their work serves to solidify the chance of recognizing oppression when it arises in the future. This process of nostalgic repetition may be uncomfortable, we may be confused as to whether we should laugh or cry, but we are left with the monumental sense that we must never forget. Embarking on the future, we need not fear how coming generations will interpret us, as long as we know that the memories of history have taught us the lessons of the past.”
Notes on symbols:
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