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Moscow City Government
Moscow City Department of Culture
Russian Academy of Arts
Ivan Polyakov Humanitarian Project
Cultural Education Foundation Victory Style
Moscow Museum of Modern Art

The Theater of Vera Mukhina:
Unknown Chapter In the Career of a Sculptor
Bertran "Knight of Misfortune". Costume Sketch for The Unperformed Drama "The Rose and the Cross" by A. Blok
Gouache, silver and black ink on paper
70 х 48,5
© «Konstantinovsky» International Charity Fund, Saint-Petersburg, Russia, 2012
Damayanti. Costume Sketch for The Unperformed Ballet "Nala and Damayanti"
Paper on board, watercolor, ink
21,7 х 17,7
© State Russian Museum, Saint-Petersburg, Russia, 2012
Servant With a Jug and Goblet. Costume Sketch for The Unperformed Lyric Drama “The Jest” by Sem Benelli
Watercolor, ink, gilding and graphite pencil on paper
22 х 19,2
© State Russian Museum, Saint-Petersburg, Russia, 2012
Archer. Costume Sketch for The Unperformed Ballet "Nala and Damayanti"
Watercolor and color ink on paper
23,1 х 18,2
© State Russian Museum, Saint-Petersburg, Russia, 2012
Date: October, 17th — December, 2nd 2012
Venue: Moscow Museum of Modern Art, 25, Petrovka str.

Curator: Georgy Kovalenko

Exhibition design by
Vyacheslav Koleychuk
Anna Koleychuk

The art of Vera Mukhina (1889–1953) can boast of a rich historiography and exhibition history. And yet her stage design has so far remained almost completely unknown. The exhibition of Vera Mukhina’s theatrical works at the Moscow Museum of Modern Art will throw a completely new light on the artistic personality of the famous sculptor of monuments. The display will feature graphic works, sculptures, costume and set designs for the theatre productions of Alexander Blok’s drama the Rose and the Cross, the tragedy La cena delle beffe (the Jesters’ Supper) by an Italian playwright Sem Benelli, Sophocles’ Electra, and the ballet Nala and Damayanti, as well as archival photo and video records. The artworks to be exhibited all come from major Russian museum collections; most of the exhibits have never been displayed before.

The exhibition is curated by Georgy Kovalenko, Ph.D. in Art History, Head of the 20th century Russian Art Department at the Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Arts, and chief research fellow at the State Institute of Art History. In 2010 he curated a comprehensive retrospective show of Alexandra Exter at the Moscow Museum of Modern Art.
The display will be designed by Vyacheslav Koleychuk, artist, architect, art theoretician and master of experimental design.

The exhibition has been initiated and co-organised by the Ivan Polyakov Humanitarian Project and the Cultural Education Foundation Victory Style. The Ivan Polyakov Humanitarian Project supports large-scale social and cultural programmes likely to leave their mark on the global cultural context. The Cultural Education Foundation Victory Style explores and promotes Russian art of 1930s-50s as a world-class art phenomenon with a peculiar style of its own. The Foundation has embarked on the The Theater of Vera Mukhina project so as to reveal an unknown chapter in the career of the artist well-known her famous statue Worker and Kolkhoz Woman. It is no less important to show an unbiased approach in the research of the 20th-century Soviet culture, which goes far beyond mere propaganda and personality cult.

Vera Mukhina is widely known as a sculptor, decorative artist, and art theoretician; her oeuvre could largely epitomize the Soviet age. The theatre of Vera Mukhina’s life was full of dramatic plot twists — early death of her parents, illnesses, major surgeries, her husband’s exile, detentions. She was born in Riga, grew up in a merchant family, studied in Paris, taking lessons from Auguste Rodin’s prominent disciple Antoine Bourdelle, then travelled through Italy, exploring the art of Renaissance. Ever since that journey she was fascinated by classical and Renaissance art. It was one of the reasons behind the artist’s work on set and costume designs for three productions of Alexander Tairov’s Chamber Theatre: the Rose and the Cross by Alexander Blok, the Jesters’ Supper by Sem Benelli, and the ballet Nala and Damayanti based on the Indian epic. Mukhina carried on these stage designs in 1916— 1917. However, for various reasons, they were never to be realized. For Alexander Tairov’s production of Thamyris Kitharodos by Innokenty Annensky, Mukhina made the proscenium arch moulding of the Chamber Theatre stage inspired by the motifs from the classical Greek art. In 1944 she created another classically inspired theatre project, elaborating the set design for Sophocles’ Electra at Evgeny Vakhtangov Theatre.

Working in different art forms, Vera Mukhina showed a remarkable coherence of her artistic style. She had a knack for expressing the epic nature of characters in her sculptural works. Her stage designs show the same insight of the characters’ inner world and ability to capture the dynamic of their gestures. Many of her easel sculptures have a pronounced theatrical element — their sculptural compositions developing like arrangements of theatrical scenes. Later in her career, Mukhina used many unrealised theatrical inspirations in sculpture, applied art and fashion design. She was happy in her active experiments in the design of modern urban clothing, modelling clothes with a dramatic silhouette, bold decorative elements and folk patterns.

The exhibition The Theater of Vera Mukhina at the Moscow Museum of Modern Art promises to turn into a real feast for the eyes of all lovers of Mukhina’s art. After all, if her theatre projects of 1916-1917 had been realised, the whole artist’s career might have taken another turn.

The exhibition includes works from the collections of the State Russian Museum, the State Tretiakov Gallery, A.A. Bakhrushin State Theatre Museum, the Saint-Petersburg State Museum of Theatre and Music, the Museum of Evgeny Vakhtangov State Academic Theatre, the Kiev National Museum of Russian Art, the Museum of the State Academic Bolshoi Theatre, the Russian State Archive of Literature and Art.
For the exhibition, a catalogue is being prepared, including previously unpublished archive materials, theatre designs and lesser known sculptures. Georgy Kovalenko, curator and initiator of the project, is also the compiling editor and author of the text in the catalogue.

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