The last twenty years before the Russian Revolution of 1917 was a
period of drastic change in the Tsardom. A new bourgeois elite
spread a wave of enlightenment throughout the still conservative
society. And painting played a vital role in this cultural
explosion. This fascinating period, which is still not well known in
the West, is the subject
of The Big Change; an exhibition that illustrates the fact
that there were innovative art scenes in St. Petersburg and Moscow
long before the time of the Russian Avant-garde of such artists as
Malevich and Kandinsky. Thanks to the cooperation of leading Russian
museums like the State
in Moscow and the
State Russian Museum in St Petersburg, the versatile
powers of this period are brought to life once again. By presenting
this exhibition of over 90 paintings, many of which have never been
seen outside Russia before, the Bonnefanten aims to show a missing
link between tradition and innovation.
When Stijn Hujits, director the Bonnefanten Museum asked us to do something with a dacha feeling, as an encore to the exhibition The Big Change, we were immediately enthusiastic. In the Russian dacha, beauty is manifested in simplicity and imperfection, as in the Japanese wabi-sabi principle. The dacha tradition has withstood almost two hundred years of turbulent Russian history, and for us it symbolizes a link between different eras.
Rather than designing a ‘normal’ set-up for an information room, we wanted to create a work of art in which the visitors took part. This room would be a place for reflection. After seeing the exhibition The Big Change, people can go to the dacha terrace and the adjacent shed to watch films, read books and talk. In the dacha house itself, we have created an installation called Paintings about me. There are four rooms in the house, and each room focuses on the work of one artist from the exhibition.