A sum of one million dollars for the acquisition of the painting was provided by Vladimir Potanin, a well-known businessman. Despite its mysterious origin ‘in a bag of potatoes’ in the provincial town of Samara in 1993, and the fact that the market of Russian avant-garde is overfilled with fake copies, even sophisticated experts still haven’t expressed any serious doubts about the authenticity of the items from this collection. Nevertheless, there is every reason to believe that several sketches, photographic images, Malevich’s own manuscripts and the broken pieces of the architectone have been lost. This detective story seems to have been predetermined by the great master Malevich himself. For example, the reverse of the painting contains the date 1913. Despite the fact that the first ‘Black Square’ is dated 1915, this dating implicitly serves to show that the painting is quite authentic. In the late 1920s Malevich, forgeing his own biography, intentionally pre-dated his works.
On the 22 of January 2002 the Russian Ministry of Culture declared the ‘Black Square’ as being an exclusively significant cultural asset, thus prohibiting its eligibility for being sold or exported. On the 13 of April the collection of Inkombank was put up for auction at Gelos auction house. At the sales the Moscow Museum for Modern Art purchased ‘Self-portrait’ and ‘The portrait of wife’. Meanwhile, the state has exercised its privilege to acquire ‘exclusively significant cultural assets’. In such a way, the ‘Black Square’ has finally found its present position in the Hermitage, and Mikhail Piotrovsky has a special programme of establishing a section dedicated to twentieth century art at the Hermitage already, in which the ‘Black Square’ will be exhibited among such items as ‘Composition IV’ by Kandinsky, ‘The Dance’ by Matisse and ‘The Three Graces’ by Picasso.
However, the former owners of the ‘Black Square’, the bankers belonging to the epoch of primary accumulation, were not fully conscious of the value of the items they possessed. Nevertheless, the art market experts named prices ranging from 15 to 25 millions of dollars, provided the picture is going to be sold on the western market. Vladimir Potanin, a media tycoon and the owner of the famous ‘Norilsk Nickel’, used the opportunity to improve his international image. The progressive oligarch was installed as a trustee of the Guggenheim Museum, in return for donations of at least one million dollars a year. The Financial Times stressed ironically, ‘While millions of their countrymen suffered collapsing living standards, declining health and increasing alcoholism, a few made enough money to join the ranks of the world’s richest men’. Finally, as long as it is owned by the state, the ‘Black Square’ is eligible to be transported across the borders and be exhibited at any affiliate branch of Guggenheim all around the world. Or, for example, in the Hermitage rooms at Somerset House.
Mondrian and his Studios
As observers, we might be tempted to approach the work of Piet Mondrian as we would the scene of a crime; searching for clues as to whether the paintings are pure design, metaphysical masterpieces or pseudo-conceptual hogwash. Tate Liverpool’s retrospective, the largest collection of his work ever assembled in the UK, deftly exposes the limits of such viewpoints, even if the artist’s paintings remain somehow in the centre of that triangle.
Patrick Scott: Image Space Light
Unsurprisingly coming from an architecture graduate, Scott’s work often revolved around order. Even though his career spanned 75 years and a wealth of mediums, there is a remarkable unity to his work, as if it arrived fully formed.
Sculptor Richard Deacon has selected works by more than 30 artists spanning the last 105 years to reveal how abstract drawing can be viewed and understood. He does not attempt a universal or exhaustive survey, but one that identifies the “various strands of abstract drawing – inscriptive, calligraphic, ornamental, generative, individuating and identifying”.
The Russian Avant-Garde: Siberia and The East
Kandinsky was spot on. The 130 Russian works of art displayed in the elegant rooms of the Palazzo Strozzi, embracing the east rather than the west, flaunt a truly eclectic mixture, ranging from paintings and watercolours to sculptures, oriental artefacts and ethnographical objects from 1890 to 1930.
With Great Force, Swiftly and Surely
During her life, Swedish mystic Hilma af Klint (1862–1944) believed the abstract art she made as part of her spiritual quest would not be understood by most people, whose awareness is limited to the material plane.