Contemporary art originated in Belarus well before yesterday. It happened at the beginning of the XX century simultaneously with the development of Western European and Russian avant-garde
Belarus became motherland of such classic masters of the Paris School as Marc Chagall, Ossip Zadkine, and Chaim Soutine. An important place in the world’s culture is taken by the Vitebsk school and its “fathers” Marc Chagall, Wassily Kandinsky, Mstislav Dobuzhinsky, Robert Falk, El Lissitzky, and Kazimir Malevich. It was in Vitebsk where in 1920 Malevich and his students issued 1000 copies of the legendary “Suprematism”. Soon after the supremacists and constructivists Vladimir Tatlin, Fyodor Rodchenko, Ilya Chashnik, and Nikolai Suetin rose to international fame. The art historian Valeri Turchin wrote: "Vitebsk is a small homeland of avant-garde." The seismic creative waves of Vitebsk school are still felt through the thickness of time, resulting in attempts to revive the phenomenon. In the late XX century another Belarusian artist won international acclaim - Boris Zaborov, a Parisian since 1980. His solo exhibition was hosted by the Russian Museum in 2004; his works are shown in Paris, Tokyo, and New York.
Contrary to the common knowledge of the “last dictatorship in Europe”, the presence of contemporary life in Minsk is rich and diverse: professional National Center for Contemporary Art, numerous galleries and inspiring community of artists and art critics. The small capacity of the domestic art market encourages artists to seek for cooperation with foreign galleries, proving Belarusian status of Europe’s art life donor.
The exhibition presents Belarusian art of XXI century, the art that gives meanings to the time being: 70 works by 10 contemporary artists of both European and Russian, but mostly Minsk residence.
The subject of the show is freedom and its absence. The problem of social coexistence, private autonomy, and self-identification is being solved in the pathetic and ironic vein. The boundaries of the real and phantasmagoric are offset. The images of the totalitarian past are replaced by sharpness of socialist art, folk motifs and instinctive visual metaphors. Realism, expressionism, abstract art, primitivism, and socialist art lose their original self-sufficiency, turning into the tools for contemporary artistic consciousness.
The exhibition can be defined as a free play with the objective reality, which, as we know, sometimes gets quite persistent. The artists reflect on the Belarusian identity, where Soviet and post-Soviet atavistic patterns paradoxically coexist with the post-modern reality of the information age. Common history, similar physical environment, and abundance of social and cultural parallels make this exhibition kindred to the Russian audience.
Among the participants of the project there are Natalia Zaloznaya, Sergei Grinevich, Zhanna Kapustnikova, Vladimir Kondrusevich, Vladimir Kontsendaylov, Tatiana Radivilko, Konstantin Selikhanov, Ivan Semiletov, Igor Tishin, and Ales Faley.
The project is the fruit of collaboration of Gallery Dom Kartin, Minsk, and Erarta Museum of Contemporary Art, St.-Petersburg.