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History Lesson

June 12 - June 27, 2010

History Lesson
12 – 27 June 2010
Palais de Tokyo, Paris

Curator Joseph Backstein has brought together over 20 Russian artists to create an exhibition showing the panorama of Russian art over the last 30 years.

The exhibition has showcased nearly 40 works from the most significant Russian contemporary artists and revealed many recurring themes and preoccupations such as the artists re-interpreting history and celebrating nostalgia. As Joseph Backstein explained: “The work produced throughout the last decades, often reflects the cultural, historical, social and political circumstances under which they were created”.

The exhibition included Konstantin Zvesdochetov's 80s pastiche of 'Liberty Leading the People' by Eugène Delacroix, where Zvezdotchetov painted the ironic representation of Liberty leading the people forward raising a red flag with her head is crowned with the Red Army Budenovka instead of Phrygian cap. This Post-Perestroika spirit of liberation could also be seen in the epic photographs of cult Russian musicians and artists by Sergueï Borissov. Also showing was an installation by the collective AES+F entitled "Suspects, Seven Sinners and Seven Rightous" (1997), which was inspired by real-life events during the 90s. The artists created portraits of 14 young girls, half of which are ordinary school girls and half are from a reformatory institution for serious crime, but the artists don’t make any noticeable distinctions between the girls and leave the viewer to play witness and identify which is righteous and which is a murderer. Not only do the artists presented in the exhibition have reflected the contemporary life which surrounded them at the specific moment in time, but also a sense of nostalgia which has penetrated the layers of Russian society since the 80s, looking back towards an era past.

History Lesson is part of Année France – Russie 2010, the cultural exchange between Russia and France. 

History Lesson
12 – 27 June 2010
Palais de Tokyo, Paris 13


AES+F, Sergueï Borissov, Nadejda Boucheneva, Aleksandre Brodskiï, Sergueï Chekhovtsov, Stas Chouripa, Dmitri Goutov, Anton Guinzbourg, Anna Jeloud, Arseni Jiliaev, Iakov Kajdan, Anastasia Khoroshilova, Olga Kisseleva, Irina Korina, Mikhail Kossolapov, Andreï Kouzkin, Igor Makarevitch, Andreï Molodkin, Andreï Monastyrskiï, Anatoli Osmolovski, Ian Pichtchikov, Sini Soup Group, Khaim Sokol, Olga Tchernychova, Sergueï Volkov, Konstantin Zvezdotchetov.


Joseph Backstein

Born 1945, Moscow. Graduated from the Moscow Institute of Computer Sciences. PhD in Sociology of Arts and Culture. Artistic Director of the State Centre for Museums and Exhibitions ROSIZO, Director of the Institute of Contemporary Art (Moscow). Lives and works in Moscow.
Selected exhibitions:
2006 Norman Foster. Space and Time, State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow, Russia
2005 Angels of History. Moscow Conceptualism and its Influence (co-curator), MuHKA, Antwerp, Belgium 1 Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art (coordinating curator), Moscow, Russia
2002 Video-Zone (co-curator), Video Art Biennial, Tel-Aviv, Israel Sergei Bratkov, 25th Sao Paolo Biennial, Curator for Russian participation, Sao Paolo, Brazil Mona Hatoum, Measure of Distance, Central House of the Artist, Moscow, Russia
2001 On the Way to the Screen (co-curator), Central House of the Artist, Moscow, Russia
2000 Inverse Perspectives, Edsvik Art Centre, Stockholm, Sweden 1999 Komar & Melamid. Collaboration with Animals, Russian Pavilion, Venice Biennale, Italy