White Space Gallery is pleased to announce ‘New Russian Saints’, an exhibition of one of the final series of textile works by Timur Novikov. Timur Novikov, who died in 2002, aged 44, was the originator of the St Petersburg post-Soviet avant-garde movement and an iconic figure of the final decades of the 20th Century. Tall, charismatic and outstandingly handsome, Novikov achieved greatness through unorthodox channels, working with a succession of major cultural groupings in St Petersburg and, from the late 1980s, making important contacts with western artists.
Novikov founded two art groups – the Novie Khudozhniki (New Artists‘ Group) in 1982 and the Novaya Akademia (New Academy) in 1989, the simultaneously experimental and retrograde group, which dominated the artistic life of his native city.
In 1991, he had his first solo exhibition at Phyllis Kind Gallery, New York. There, he became familiar with the East Village art scene and met leading vanguard artists, such as Robert Raushenberg and John Cage, whom he referred as teachers. He also befriended the late Keith Haring, his exact contemporary, and became a committed member of the international avant-garde.
By the late 1990s, Novikov had already formulated his contradictory cultural philosophy. He was both a defender of St Petersburg classical culture and a champion of modern advertising, which he believed was the last refuge of what was obviously beautiful. The founding image of the New Academy movement, ‘Apollo trampling on the Black Square’, encapsulates the conflict between the spiritual essence of art (the god Apollo) and the quintessence of the avant-garde (Kazimir Malevich’s painting, ‘Black Square’).
In 1997, Novikov lost his sight. For the last seven years of his life, he developed his artistic theories and created new art works. One of his final works ‘New Russian Saints’ (1998) is a series of collages, juxtaposing photographs of Russian orthodox martyrs (among them are members of the Romanov family murdered by the Bolshevics) and fabric from religious ceremonial vestments. Novikov here brings together the qualities of religious veneration, personal mystique and miracle-working powers into everyday domestic life in the form of the photograph – the contemporary art medium of which Novikov was a powerful devotee. The saints are selected from among the large number whose canonisation was delayed or impeded by the communist regime. They include the prophet and miracle worker, St John of Kronstadt (1829-1908) and the philanthropist, Elizaveta Fedorovna (1864-1918), formerly Elizabeth of Hesse, grand-daughter of Queen Victoria, also, Russia’s last Emperor, Tsar Nicholas II (1868 – 1918) and Empress Alexandra Fedorovna (1872 – 1918).
Timur Novikov (1958-2002) exhibited worldwide. His solo shows include the Tate Liverpool (1989), Stedelijk, Amsterdam (1993), Kunsthalle, Dusseldorf (1993), World Financial Centre in New York (1997), State Russian Museum, St Petersburg (1998). His works are in the collections of Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam), Schwules Museum (Berlin), The Museum of Modern Art (Vienna) The F.R. Weisman Art Museum (USA), Zimmerly Museum (USA), Victoria and Albert Museum (London) and many others.
Curators: Maria Novikov and Anya Stonelake. Sponsors: Pushkin House Trust, The Russian Language Centre, Nana Zhvitiashvili