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Savitsky Museum - Nukus - Uzbekistan

I have spent a day at the Savitsky Museum in Nukus, capital of the autonomous Republic of Karakalpakstan in far western Uzbekistan. It is housed in a modern attractive building with a central Asian/Mongol reference.

The cost of entry is 48,000 som = $AUD7 approx. But the camera levy is 200,000 som = very pricey. I reluctantly paid the levy only to be dismayed to discover that the majority of works are under highly reflective glass. For the result, see the photo of the lovely porcelain dish.

It is a very large and well curated collection of Russian and Uzbek paintings and sculptures of which only about 20% are actually on display, spread over 2 large multi-floor buildings. Many were accumulated by Igor Savitsky ( over his lifetime and have since been thoughtfully supplemented by the work of regional artists. Much of Savitsky's collection is from the inter-war period and 50s-70s and so is dominated by Expressionist work excluding 'Soviet realism. This is because he collected mostly works in styles not well regarded by the authorities.

Having the run of this quality display made for a very satisfying day. From time to time it was interrupted by squads of excited (but not about the art) chattering schoolchildren though they quickly blew in and flew out. As they passed through I took the opportunity to sit and recharge. Apart from that there was hardly anyone there.

Due to the limitations of local connectivity I will have to send some separate emails detailing the collection. The attached photos have been downsized but even so may not successfully convey on the local communications infrastructure.

As to the photos - I thought "Buffo" might mean "cat" but Google Translate from both Russian and Uzbek has it simply as "Buffo". Perhaps it's the artist's name for his own cat - a Russian Blue I think. Either way, it's a good name for my next cat to be acquired on return to Perth!

The beauty of the women speaks for itself. Both Uzbek Girl and Mother are very alive. To me, Uzbek Girl is wary but without fear - and with a good dose of je ne c'est quoi? Mother is softer and the artist has well captured her openness. As always, mere photos cannot fully convey the compelling beauty of these depictions as seen in the flesh - as it were.

By the Coffee Bar from 1920 depicts a scene still commonly played out today with both backgammon and dominoes competitively pursued.

By the Coffee Bar - 1920 N Grigorev

The cotton picking painting by Volkov from the 1930s is bright and happily coloured but the expressions of the workers are dour. There is a history of the use of slaves to pick cotton in Uzbekistan. Together with collectivisation, widespread severe environmental damage through chemical use and water diversion the artist has idealized what probably was a fairly miserable scene.

Cotton Picking - A Volkov

Near the Tandir shows women working the tandir - a beehive shaped oven made of mud and accessed through a hole in the top. Wood is burned from the bottom. Still in widespread use today, it yields the most delicious savoury pastries.

Near the Tandir - 1972 J Bekanov

I really liked Before the Tempest showing the trees being violently thrown about in the wind, accentuated by a chaotic landscape. A static painting successfully conveying giddying movement. Panic similarly succeeds.

Before Tempest - A Volkov

I liked Savitsky's Garden Square for its satisfying composition.

Garden Square - 1958 Savitsky

Also the wrestling.

Wrestling - 1929 U Tansykbaev

Well that's probably enough art babble from me for the present. Next will be some scenes from the streets of Nukus. And thereafter I'll work backwards through our trip to Khiva, Bukhara, Samarkand to the start in Tashkent and the slightly disheartening pre-beginning.



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