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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. 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 This community of artists realizes that the new freedom may be rescinded overnight.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’.”