The Savitsky Collection: A rare chapter of art history survives in the desert of Uzbekistan

October 7, 2011

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(Photo by Militza Zemskaya)
Igor Savitsky collected more than 44,000 pieces of Russian avant-garde art in the desert of Uzbekistan.
(Courtesy of Tchavdar Georgiev)
"Arba" by Mikhail Kurzin
(Courtesy of Tchavdar Georgiev)
"Constructing a Road" by Nikolay Karakhan, 1932
(Courtesy of Tchavdar Georgiev)
"Arba" by Alexander Volkov, 1924
(Courtesy of Tchavdar Georgiev)
"Caravan" by Alexander Volkov, 1926
(Courtesy of Tchavdar Georgiev)
"The Old and the New" by Solomon Nikritin, 1935
(Courtesy of Tchavdar Georgiev)
"Green Teahouse" by Alexander Volkov

The recent documentary film Desert of Forbidden Art tells the story of how 44,000 pieces of rare Russian art wound up tucked away in a museum in the middle of the Uzbekistan desert. 

Shortly after the 1917 Russian Revolution, a failed artist named Igor Savitsky began collecting works by some of the Russian avant-garde’s greatest, but largely unknown, painters. He took the artworks -- many of which are considered masterpieces -- to Nukus, a remote city in the Karakalpak region of Uzbekistan. Savitsky figured correctly that Nukus’ isolation would keep the Soviet censors away.  The painters themselves, however, were not so lucky.  Many spent years in Stalin’s gulags and died penniless.

Worldview film contributor Milos Stehlik discusses the colllection's incredible story with the documentary film’s co-directors, Amanda Pope and Tchavdar Georgiev.