Viktor Popkov (1932 – 1974) is a name London will be hearing more about in 2014. Organised as part of the UK / Russia Year of Culture, the celebrated Soviet artist will headline an exhibition at Somerset House running from 20 May until 24 June this year, Victor Popkov, Dreams and Reality.
On the day the exhibition opens, Pushkin House will host a special discussion with the organisers – curator Zelfira Tregulova and collector and businessman Andrey Filatov, who will tell the story of this extraordinary Russian artist and the exhibition in London.
Often described as the ‘Dostoevsky of art’, Popkov’s style developed from Socialist Realism in the 1950s to the so-called ‘austere’ school in the 1960s, a reactionary movement of which he was a pioneer, with a more romantic, dreamy style characterising his later works.
During his lifetime, tragically cut short in an accident in 1974, Popkov’s unique, sober yet allegorical style achieved worldwide recognition, earning him numerous prizes, including the Grand Prix at the World Biennale in Paris in 1967. His works have since been exhibited at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York (RUSSIA!, 2004) and the Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome (Socialist Realism, 2011).
The artist’s first London retrospective will feature 40 paintings, including some of his most celebrated works in the UK for the first time – By the White Sea (1965), Spring at the Depot (1958) and Summer, July (1968), among others.
Andrey Filatov co-owns the railway and port operator N-Trans. Besides being an art collector Filatov is a professional chess player and President of the Russian Chess Federation.
In 2013 the businessman launched the Filatov Family Art Fund (http://www.filatovartfund.org), which aims to buy and promote around 12 works a year from the Soviet Era (1917-1991) - lesser-known, and often undervalued works that, as he puts it, ‘tell the story of a forgotten motherland’. Having set himself the task of recovering Soviet masterpieces that disappeared following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Filatov has spent the past 5 years scouring the world for masterpieces created behind the Iron Curtain, amassing a collection worth a reported $100 million and counting, with the eventual aim of opening a museum dedicated to Soviet art. The Filatov Fund is generously supporting this summer’s exhibition of Popkov’s work at Somerset House.
Zelfira Tregulova has been instrumental in organising almost every major international retrospective of Russian art since the 1990s – from the The Great Utopia: The Russian and Soviet Avant-Garde,1915-1932 at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York in 1992, to the recent Kazimir Malevich exhibition shown at London’s Tate Modern, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and the Bundeskunsthalle in Bonn from 2013 – 2014.
Tregulova spent 11 years working at the Exhibitions Department of the Moscow Kremlin Museum, before being appointed General Director of the State Museum and Exhibition Center Rosizo in 2013. Viktor Popkov – Dreams and Reality, to be shown at the Ca’Foscari University of Venice before opening at Somerset House, is the latest project to take place under her curatorship.