Paris – Rebel Spirits: Non-conformist art from important European collections will be held atBonhams Cornette de Saint Cyr on Friday 5 May 2023 in Paris. This auction will feature more than 75 paintings by artists such as Erik Bulatov, Viacheslav Vasilevich Kalinin, Dmitri Plavinsky, Anatoliy Poutiline, Oscar Rabin, Vasily Sitnikov, many of whom were part of Biennale del dissenso culturale (Biennale of Dissent) held from 15 October to 17 November 1977 in Venice. Among the highlights is an important Surrealist composition by Alexander Kharitonov estimated at €40,000-50,000.
This biennale marked the 60th anniversary of the October Revolution. It examined the phenomenon of dissent as an alternative to official aesthetics and ideology in the Eastern Bloc countries. The fine arts exhibition, La nuova arte sovietica : una prospettiva non ufficiale (New Art from the Soviet Union: an Unofficial Perspective), was curated by Enrico Crispolti and Gabriella Di Milia Moncada and featured Soviet unofficial artists, an unusual and bold move.
Highlights of works exhibited at the 1977 Venice Biennale include:
- Vodka by Oscar Yakovlevich Rabin (estimate: €15,000 – 20,000) and Panagia by Dmitri Plavinsky (estimate: €20,000 – 30,000) were both where they were among works that, while generally not known to the general Soviet public, gained appreciation in the West.
- Cathedral by Anatoliy Poutiline, oil on canvas (estimate: €2,000 – 4,000).
- Acquired directly from the artist by Franco Miele, Storyteller in Moscow by Viacheslav Vasilevich Kalinin is a 1972 surrealist oil on canvas, (estimate: €10,000 – 15,000). Exhibited at the Biennale, it was shown in a number of Italian exhibitions from 1978 to 2010. A couple shown playing violins are depicted in a comical way, visibly playing incorrectly, their proportions are exaggerated, with grotesque expressions.
- Erik Bulatov lives in Paris and is one of the few artists exhibited at the Biennale who is still alive. A work on paper dated 1961 will be offered (estimate: €8,000 – 10,000) along with a Surrealist composition dated 1960 signed Alexander Kharitonov (estimate: €40,000 – 50,000).
Daria Khristova, Head of Sale, said: “We are delighted to be offering these historically significant paintings by some of the non-conformist artists who exhibited at the Dissident Biennale in Venice in 1977. The show certainly caused controversy, but it provided an important platform for artists to provide a challengingly different perspective on the celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of the October Revolution.”
Other highlights of the sale will include:
- Cat by Vladimir Igorevich Yakovlev, oil on canvas (estimate: €12,000 – 15,000)
- Refrigerator “Vivaldi” Oscar Yakovlevich Rabin, 2002, oil on canvas (estimate: €30,000 – 40,000)
- As an influential bohemian figure of the underground Soviet non-conformist art movement, Vasily Sitnikov was a self-taught artist. He moved to the US in the 1980s, where he painted Cart Ride, a large oil from 1984. (estimate: €15,000-20,000). This work highlights a technique he used, employing elaborate graphic shading, paired with a gentle blue colour palette that pervades the canvas, creating an airy ripple effect reminiscent of mist.