April 22, 2024

The Avant-gardists! Artists in revolt in the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union 1917-1935

A talk with the Art Historian, Sjeng Scheijen.


The internationally acclaimed Art Historian Sjeng Scheijen will give a fascinating talk at the MOMus-Museum of Modern Art-Costakis Collection on the occasion of the recent publication of his book entitled "The Avant-gardists! Artists in revolt in the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union 1917-1935", on Thursday, 25 April, 2024, at 17:00. 

Sjeng Scheijen will be interviewed by Maria Tsantsanoglou, Artistic Director of the Museum, and answer to questions from the audience. 


Admission is free, while the discussion will be held in English without translation.


In his talk Sjeng Scheijen will dive into the personal stories of these artists: why did they join the Revolution, how did they want to bring their utopian dreams to life? And how did they cope with the oppression, marginalization, and violence that they had to endure until the end of their lives?


As the writer mentions: “Artists like Kazimir Malevich, Wassily Kandinsky, Marc Chagall and Vladimir Tatlin, now regarded as some of the most celebrated and influential artists of the 20th century, were during the last years of czarist rule in Russia considered clownish troublemakers at best. But in the years immediate after the Revolution, they rose to sudden fame as they became high-ranking officials in the newly formed Soviet government. Never before, and never after, were artists of this creative eminence given such political power. They were given the task to reorganize the art world, and to change public space in the big cities, according to the utopian ideals of the Revolution. The Avant-gardists though, were no match for the political games of hardened revolutionaries, and did not hold on to their positions very long. As the Bolsheviks toughened their grip on power the artists were forced to adapt to the new cultural policies and serve the social and political agenda of the state. Those who refused were marginalized, often harassed, and sometimes arrested, tortured, and killed.”


Sjeng Scheijen received his doctorate from the Slavic Department at Leiden University, is an independent author, curator and researcher. He was cultural attaché at the Royal Dutch Embassy in Moscow, and lived and/or worked in various cities in the Russian Federation, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. He is a board member of the Khardzhiev Foundation, based in Amsterdam. He was a member of the Board of Specialists of the Hermitage Amsterdam, and a jury member of the Vermeer Award, the Dutch State prize for the arts. His books, among which is a celebrated biography of Sergei Diaghilev, are translated in nine languages.