Nigel Hurst

Art Riot: Post Soviet Actionism forms the fourth major collaboration between the Saatchi Gallery and the Tsukanov Family Foundation and follows-on from the success of Breaking the Ice: Moscow Art 1960s-80s which was shown at the Saatchi Gallery from late November 2012-February 2013. Post Pop: East Meets West, which ran from November 2014-March 2015 and Revelations: New Work by Aidan, from January-March 2016. These exhibitions have collectively attracted over 1.3 million visitors and all have been extended due to popular demand.

The aim of all these exhibitions to date has been to bring art from the former Soviet Union to the attention of a wider international audience, focus on challenges that non-conformist artists faced, and their modern and contemporary successors continue to face, while highlighting similar or converging themes, influences and legacies in art from other areas of the world – particularly the West.

We would like to thank Natasha and Igor Tsukanov for their continuing support and collaboration, enthusiasm, boundless energy and vision, and curator Marat Guelman for this timely survey of Post-Soviet protest art. 

By bringing together this group of important works and photographs of performances made during the last 25 years by seven main protagonists and their numerous peers, Art Riot: Post Soviet Actionism is both unprecedented and unique in documenting a diverse range of protest art by artists including Oleg Kulik, Pussy Riot, Pyotr Pavlensky, Blue Noses Group, Arsen Savadov, AES + F and Vasily Slonov.

The works on display feature various genres from posters and slogans to video art, staged photography and performances made in response to the need for individual and collective expression, and feelings of alienation in the face of restrictive political and religious ideologies.

Art Riot: Post-Soviet Actionism raises crucial questions about artistic freedom, through performance and practices responding to a crisis whereby artists face shrinking freedom, brought about by persisting government censorship and police intervention, yet feel compelled by an even more urgent need to make very individual forms of subversive and provocative expression as a consequence.

Their protest art explores what it means to be an artist, and wider issues around citizenship and freedom of speech, in what remains of the Post-Soviet Union today. The exhibition creates a public platform to highlight this ongoing predicament, and traces parallels between this very contemporary dilemma and similar repression due to the rise of the communist state 100 years ago. 

Nigel Hurst

CEO Saatchi Gallery