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The Irony Tower : Soviet Artists in a Time of Glasnost


Sotheby’s auction of avant-garde Soviet art, held in Moscow in 1988, introduced to the West a generation of painters and sculptors who for years had been unable to exhibit their works in public.

The Irony Tower: Soviet Artists in a Time of Glasnost, by Andrew Solomon. New York: Knopf, 1991.

Solomon, who covered the auction for a British magazine, offers an intimate, thoughtful glimpse of Moscow’s and Leningrad’s artistic vanguards, walking on ice in the unpredictable thaw of glasnost. Works range from Ilya Kabakov’s obsessive re-creation of a Moscow communal apartment, Citadel of Misery, to painter Larissa Zvezdochetova’s witty, kitschy demolition of communist propaganda. This community of artists realizes that the new freedom may be rescinded overnight. To Solomon, their work “is a warning, a sustained message… that says, simply, ‘Beware, and remember.’”

Read an excerpt


Praise for The Irony Tower

“The tone is compassionate and engaging throughout… Timely and enjoyable: a rich collage of personality and adventure.” — Kirkus Reviews

“A timely, perceptive and highly entertaining combination of art criticism, social analysis and personal revelation… It is Mr. Solomon’s deep compassion for these artists… that grabs and holds the reader.” — Harlow Robinson, New York Times

“An intimate, thoughtful glimpse of Moscow’s and Leningrad’s artistic vanguards, walking on ice in the unpredictable thaw of glasnost.” — Publishers Weekly

“Solomon has written a thought-provoking book, an homage to free spirits.” — Lucy Edwards Despard, Foreign Affairs

“Highly recommended… an intelligent account of the Russian unofficial art scene of the last few years… An insightful view of Russian Soviet society in general, a fascinating narrative, and a pleasure to read.” — Oliver Botar, Toronto Star

“A remarkably engaging book about contemporary avant-garde Soviet artists… an unusual and accessible narrative that not only provides a vivid portrait of a community of artists at work, but also reveals much about rapidly deconstructing Soviet society.” — Stan Persky, Globe & Mail

 

Translations

Russian: The Irony Tower. Советские художники во времена гласности
Translator: Ирина Колисниченко / Irina Kolisnichenko. Moscow: Гараж / Ад Маргинем (Garage / Ad Marginem), October 2013.