Guggenheim’s ‘Russia!’ not to be missed

More than two weeks after the Russia! exhibition officially kicked off at the Guggenheim with a visit from Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia, it still opens every day to a full house.

The exhibition, featuring more than 275 Russian and European paintings and sculptures from the 13th century to the present, attracted a crowed of people as diverse and vibrant as the masterpieces on the walls. Bohemians, tourists and New Yorkers flocked to the spiral wonder of Frank Lloyd Wright, located on East 88th street and 5th Avenue in Manhattan.

Russia! is the most comprehensive presentation of Russian art ever shown in the United States. The exhibit includes ancient Russian Orthodox icons, portraits in both painting and sculpture from 18th to 20th centuries, rich landscapes, and innovative contemporary art.

Although the exhibition is largely focused on authentic Russian masterpieces, it also features a selection of first-rate Western European works by such legendary artists as Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, and others that were collected over the centuries by the tzars Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, and Nicholas I.

Thomas Krens, Director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, said in a statement that “this exhibition will serve as a unique opportunity to introduce the international public to the most valued artistic treasures culled from Russia’s greatest museums.”

This was something that was impossible to imagine some 15 years ago, when Russia, then USSR, was the enemy of the United States in the Cold War.

Most of the works presented in the RUSSIA! exhibition, especially the 15th century icons, have never traveled abroad before. Although many of them appear faded and severely damaged by time, the images painted by such masters as Anderi Rublev and Dionisii are as powerful and striking today as they were five centuries ago.

Highlights of the exhibition include Vasilii Perov’s portrait of the Fyodor Dostoevsky, the author of “Crime and Punishment,” Ilya Repin’s prodigious Barge Haulers on the Volga, which depicts the anguish and pain of poor serfs, and Kazimir Malevich’s enigmatic Black Square that never fails to raise the question: “What does this black space really mean?”

The exhibiton is chronologically arranged into a series of key moments in the history of Russian art. It tells the amazing and often tragic story of Russian culture and society projected through the eyes of the artists for the last 800 years.

Overall, looking at the awe-inspiring masterpieces presented in the Guggenheim this season, one cannot deny the enormous contribution of Russian masters and collectors to the history of world art.

The unique spiral structure of the Frank Lloyd Wright building creates a mesmerizing effect on the viewers.

Looking up or across the ramps of its interior, visitors can take in eight centuries of the diverse artistic genius in a single breath-taking glance.

The sheer diversity of the artistic styles presented in the exhibition is remarkable, and each and every visitor will surely find something to his or her liking: From incredibly detailed and luxurious court scenes and portraits by Dmitry Levitski and Anton Losenko, to life-like pastoral landscapes by Isaak Levitan, to Social Realism and thought-provoking avant-garde works by such artist as Yuri Pimenov and Ilya Kabakov.

It is a sure bet that the incredible Russia! exhibition will not leave a single art lover and even an art novice unimpressed.