London, not Moscow, has long been the global center for Russian art — but the twice-yearly batch of specialist auctions at Sotheby’s, Christie’s, Bonhams and MacDougall’s (who specialize exclusively in Russian art) attract a clientele that is essentially Russian — not British, or even Western.
Ignorance is one factor: there has been little to raise the profile of 20th century Russian art for the British museum-goer. Now the Saatchi Gallery is seeking to change that with two blockbuster exhibitions: one devoted to Non-Conformist Art of the 1960s-80s (through February 24), the other to art since the fall of Communism in 1990 (through May 5).
The Non-Conformists spurned the political dictates of Socialist Realism, often working clandestinely. The Saatchi show reveals that a handful of them — led by Vladimir Neumukhin and Lydia Masterkova — were already, by the 1960s, producing abstractions worthy of their European and American contemporaries. Abetted by the