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The image of the circus in Russian art on view at Moscow Museum of Modern Art
The sketch for the jazz-clownade “Gramophone fiend”. 1933. The Museum of Circus Art to the Grand Saint Petersburg Circus.

MOSCOW.- MMOMA with support of Heritage Foundation of Artist A. D. Tikhomirov presents “Playing the Circus,” a large-scale exhibition project comprising the Russian art dating to the 20th and 21st centuries. The artworks on display center on the subject of circus. The MMOMA collection forms a basis of the exhibition, which was enlarged with works courtesy of the collections kept in the major state-run and private Russian museums and organizations e.g. The Tretyakov State Gallery, The State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow Art Media Museum, the Museum of Circus Art to the Grand Saint Petersburg Circus, the Museum of the Union of Russia’s Circus Artists, Heritage Foundation of Artist A. D. Tikhomirov et al. All told, the works from more than 30 collections have become part of the exhibition.

Some of the works at the MMOMA exhibition are well known to the public; others have never been exhibited before. The exhibition comprises works of the classic Russian Avant-garde artists: Alexander Rodchenko, Vladimir Dmitriev, Alexandra Exter, Vladimir Sterligov, and Mark Chagall. It also includes works by the masters of the latter part of the 20th century, such as Alexander Tyshler, Alexander Tikhomirov, Natalya Nesterova, Tatyana Nazarenko, Olga Bulgakova, Oleg Tselkov, and Konstantin Batynkov. There are also works by some of the contemporary artists e.g. Oleg Kulik, Leonid Tishkov, Olga Tobreluts, to mention just a few. Their works relate to the subject of circus in one way or another. The works are exhibited next to authentic circus props, costume designs, documentary photographs and videos.

The circus motives in art are not a mere representation of a subject; they are a peculiar way of looking at the world from a fresh angle, and the outlook ranges from the drama of an individual to an all-encompassing metaphor. Tragedy shown through the prism of circus art is seen in the paintings of Moisei Feigin, Pavel Chelishchev, and in the photographic series by Sergei Bratkov. The modern visual techniques can convey the spectator to some new lands unexplored by circus art, into the realms of abstract ideas and critical social innuendoes. By making good use of circus rhetoric, the artists get the opportunity of speaking facetiously on serious subjects. Buffoonery, outfit change, theatrical performance, epatage on the verge of a trick, hocus-pocus, optical illusion, and demonstrations of grotesqueries and most unusual comparisons – all the above borrowings from a circus show are apparent in the art of Mitki and Siniye Nosy groups. The same applies to the works of Vladislav Mamyshev (Monroe), German Vinogradov and many other artists.

To meet the requirements of this project, the MMOMA exhibition space has undergone substantial changes. “Metaphor”, “Drama”, “Dressing Room”, “Circus Arena”, “Cage”, “Dream”, and “Walk of Fame” – the highly charged, gala halls share the venue with chamber halls, dressing rooms, and backstage areas containing props. The spectator can take a closer look at the facets of the world of circus, the world that brings about associations and triggers secret workings of the human heart.

In line with the MMOMA publishing program, a catalogue in Russian and English is planned for printing by the opening date of the exhibition.

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