On February 23, the ZARYA Center for Contemporary Art will launch “Timur Novikov and the New Artists.” Produced in collaboration with the Moscow Museum of Modern Art, this retrospective exhibition surveys the artistic output of this remarkable group, which was founded in Leningrad in 1982. The exhibition will remain on view through May 13. Admission is free of charge.

“This exhibition guides the visitor through a detailed and thorough retelling of one of the most vibrant and pivotal periods in Russian contemporary art,” explains ZARYA CCA’s Chief Curator, Alisa Bagdonaite. “Timur Novikov and the New Artists managed to build up around them a creative position that was in maximal contrast to the social, political and artistic context of the time. For us, it is a true honor to be able to show these legendary works of the art in the Far East for the very first time.”

The survey at ZARYA CCA will include extraordinary works by Timur Novikov, Oleg Kotelnikov, Inal Savchenko, Vadim Ovchinnikov, Sergey Chernov and Sergey Bugaev, as well as many other members of the Leningrad avant-garde of the 1980s and 90s. Among the works presented will be textile collages from Novikov’s “Horizon” series; paintings; archival materials (photographs, texts, and video footage from Pirate Television); poetry and prose written by the artists; various art objects; and costumes. These items will be divided into several thematic sections, kicked off by a selection of personal works by Novikov. Other galleries will be dedicated to Necrorealism; Pop-Mekhanika; the New Artists; the New Wilds; and the New Composers. This exhibition at ZARYA CCA is able to so comprehensively cover the wide-ranging activities of this group only with the support and collaboration of the Moscow Museum of Modern Art, the Museum, the Petersburg Video Archive and the private collections of Sergey Shutov and the family of Timur Novikov. The exhibition was curated by Ekaterina Andreeva.

The New Artists is a creative alliance founded by artist and curator Timur Novikov and his close friends Ivan Sotnikov, Oleg Kotelnikov, Kirill Khazanovich and Georgy Guryanov. The New Artists formalized in response to the Zero Object (1982), a famous intervention made by Novikov and Sotnikov, which was followed in 1983 by two other happenings: the first public performance of the utyugon and the poetry-filled “Medical Concert.” By the end of the 1980s, this tight circle had transformed into a movement of more than 70 participants, many of whom also belonged to a number of other associations – among them, the Club of Friends of Mayakovsky, the Engineers of Art, the Necrorealists, etc.

The creative outpouring of the New Artists aimed at nothing less than a total transformation of life around them. This entailed producing not only paintings, graphics, panels, and collages, but also literary works, animations and parody films, the invention of new musical instruments (such as the utyugon and the “long string”), and theatrical performances (In 1984, Novikov established New Theater, whose first production was an interpretation of Daniil Kharms’ The Ballet of the Inseparable Trio, which, in its second run, cast as one of the “Inseparables” Garik Assa, who was prominently featured in ZARYA’s previous exhibition “Assa En Masse”).

The performances of New Theater were scored by the avant-garde sonic collages of New Composers Igor Verichev and Valery Alakhov, while Novikov and the New Artists participated in concerts by the bands Kino and Pop-Mekhanika, and, in 1985, the Leningrad rock club hosted “Happy New Year!,” the first public exhibition of the New Artists. The genius of wild painting, Oleg Kotelnikov joined forces with Evgeny Yufit, Evgeny “Debil” (“Imbecile”) Kondratiev and Andrey “Mertvyi” (“Dead”) Kurmoyartsev to devise a cinematographic and literary Necrorealism. The artist, musician and writer Vadim Ovchinnikov and Vladislav Gutsevich organized the literary club Druzhba (“Friendship”), while Sergey Bugaev-Afrika launched the Club of Friends of Mayakovsky and the Novorossiysk School, whose members included former classmates from Novorossiysk, Inal Savchenko, the rising star of expressionist painting, and Andrey Krisanov, an artist and guitarist in the band Kino. A series of avant-garde fashion shows by the New Artists were captured by the camera of E-E (Evgeny Kozlov), who also shot the album covers for records by Kino and Pop-Mekhanika, as well as portraits of Novikov, Guryanov and the New Composers. The Perestroika years would see the rise of the New Wilds (Kozin, Maslov and Zaika), as well as the dawn of unabashed superstar Vladislav Mamyshev-Monroe, who hosted Pirate Television alongside Yury Lesnik. The esteemed Soviet painter Maria Sinyakova-Urechina bestowed upon Novikov and Bugaev the title of “Presidents of the Terrestrial Sphere,” a designation coined by the great Russian Futurist, Velimir Khlebnikov.

In this historic retrospective, the artistic production of the New Artists is framed as part of the international “New Wave” of “free expressionism,” a movement that includes Jean-Michel Basquiat, putting the ASSA Gallery on par with Andy Warhol’s Factory.

For Reference: Timur Novikov (1958-2002) became an artist and curator during the rise of the wave of Nonconformism in Leningrad. In 1977, he started participating as a member of Letopis (“Chronicle”), a group founded by Nonconformist-Expressionist Boris Koshelokhov. The following year, Koshelokhov received permanent residence in Italy, and twenty-year-old Novikov stepped in to take over the organization of the group’s activities. He founded a squat with studios for his fellow Letopis members in the former Church of Shestyakov, which he christened in honor of the Apostles to Ancient Rus, Saints Kirill and Methodius. While police promptly put an end to this squat, Novikov was not discouraged and continued to organize unofficial exhibitions on beaches and parks. In 1980, in a renovated communal apartment on Ulitsa Voinov, Novikov inaugurated the ASSA Gallery with the “First Biennale of Portraits of Timur Novikov.”