The Desert of Forbidden Art is one of those so-unlikely-it-must-be-true deals. In one of the most remote places on earth, Karakalpak, an independent province within the country of Uzbekistan, is a collection of astonishing and brilliant art. The collection was amassed by Igor Savitsky, a man born into Russian nobility before the Revolution who become an electrician and found a path for artistic expression during an archaeological expedition. He hoped to be an artist himself but when he realized he would never be great, he used his passion and resources to save the work of painters who were suppressed by the Soviet Union. These were mostly masters of the avant-garde from the 1920s and ‘30s whose works mouldered in attics, crumbling and forgotten. Somehow Savitsky was able to obtain permission to build a museum in the desert city of Nukus, thousands of miles from Soviet bureaucracy. He hid controversial works when officials came to visit, or persuaded them that the artist was actually celebrating the glory of the industrial worker.
Directors Amanda Pope and Tchavadar Georgiev could have done a better job of explaining how Savitsky came to have enough influence to pull this off but in general this is a compelling and exciting film. The story might have been stronger with more emphasis on Savitsky himself and a little less on details of particular artists’ lives. The artwork itself, though, is the star of the show, with truly haunting paintings on display from many artists who might have equalled the fame of Chagall and Kandinsky if they had been able to leave the Soviet Union. Even now, after the museum has been featured in places like the New York Times, it lacks funds and faces a potential threat from Islamic extremists both because of the nature of the artwork but also because for the last twenty-five years it has been run by a woman.
- Sat, Oct 9th 3:20pm | Empire Granville 7 Th 5
- Sun, Oct 10th 6:00pm | Empire Granville 7 Th 5
- Thu, Oct 14th 10:45am |Pacific Cinematheque