Irina Antonova: “Art is the triumph over death”
1 December in the Pushkin Museum Pushkin opens the exhibition “Voices of the imaginary Museum of Andre Malraux”. Irina Antonova, who 48 years ago, drove the famous writer and Minister of culture of France through the halls of the building on Volkhonka now will present to Muscovites the concept of world art that changed the Museum practices of the twentieth century.
About what the real masterpieces filled with “imaginary Museum”, the President of the Pushkin told the observer of “Izvestiya” Yaroslav Timofeev.
— The main theme of the exhibition andré Malraux himself or his concept art?
— Of course, his concept. The whole practice of Museum work — the nature of the acquisitions, comparison, display. That is how we in his exposition of the language of the history of art, one way or another continues the idea of Malraux. You can come to the Louvre and in the halls of classical art a surprise to see trendy things.
Why is this being done? Because contemporary art is looking for how to live and develop. Obviously, one main direction is not. You see, as it is now with great force comes to the surface in figurative art — when you guess that it is a human figure, a dog and a table. In Russia, it is clear why, but in other countries too.
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Have a long way before you find art that will fit into a molded shape, in great style. Some say, “it is time to receive the new.” It will not be a very long time — maybe a thousand years, in the Middle ages. They began in the III-IV centuries and ended around the XIV century in Italy, but somewhere in Perm, if you recall the famous Perm sculpture is already in the XVII century.
Today we are only at the beginning of the process, so you can’t be impatient. Who knows a little art history, understands that now is the time to look back. Time to look at the world and understand that in addition to Europe and America, there is China, India, Africa, Mexico, middle and far East. Now everyone is talking about Palmyra. You see, what is lost in Palmyra, not beautiful houses, and a huge layer of culture, spiritual culture. The main advantage of Malraux that he raised all this stuff and said, “That’s the art of peace”.
— I think the ideas of Malraux are in harmony with the ideas of the founder of the Pushkin Museum of Ivan Tsvetaeva.
— So no wonder we all do it. By the way, Malraux, as Tsvetayev, does not hesitate neither the reproduction nor the cast. His main thesis, which is, of course, the Soviet aesthetics will never agree, — that the formation of the artist is not so much in working with nature, as in the dialogue with predecessors. And it’s true.
Art is for the artist more important than the actual reality. Methods Malraux interesting because they make you think. As we used to? Hall of Dutch painting, French hall, Italian hall… And Malraux all it brings, offers a dynamic method of conversation with the old art. It’s not so simple, the viewer will be surprised.
— A look back, an attempt to embrace and to reconcile, to understand art one… don’t You think all this is a sign of the end?
— Absolutely sure of it. The concept of Malraux appeared, because art, a huge segment from the point of origin until the early twentieth century — has entered a period of crisis. And then even the sense of the end has come. They say that it all began with Edouard Manet with his “Olympia”, which we recently showed. So. But what a return to the old no, I realized in the early twentieth century, when cubism, abstract art, Picasso and Malevich.
Earlier art was based on an ideal image, to which you can aspire, with which to engage in dialogue. And then turns to Venus to Olympia: it seems to be the same theme, but quite different. In the twentieth century not simply change shape — gone basics: beauty, harmony. Finally went God. Malraux writes about it. About the American Church, he says, “Where’s God? The building is beautiful, elegant, but there is no God — neither inside nor near. It is not God made.”
— What are we supposed to do with this end?
— And now to think — and the artists, and us: how to continue? For this and need our exhibition. There is one important point, this is one of the main theses Malraux. He says: “Art is anticode”. I think so too. In 1960-e years I was in the Frick collection in new York. There hangs the picture of Vermeer’s “Officer and laughing girl”. I knew it from reproductions, but never seen. And when I saw her, I shed tears.
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I don’t even have time to recover, as was already blubbered all — this was a shock, you know. I’ve only twice cried in front of paintings. Before this and then, when just as suddenly I saw in the town of Castelfranco in Northern Italy Giorgione’s “Madonna with two saints.” See, it’s not going away and for a man of the twentieth century. So, there’s this world of ideas, a world of beauty.
— That is, antistia is how the victory over death?
Yes. Art is a victory over death. And one more thing — is simply a life observation. A small child starts to draw. One circle, two sticks, another circle, another sticks — mother. The sweat Lodge of four sticks. Art cannot die, apparently. Will always sing, no matter is the voice, no voice. Always will dance, draw. And Kohl began to draw, then will think of what they represent and what they want to say. So I do not believe that art as a dialogue with the world is going to die.
— What treasures of those that will attend the exhibition Malraux, for you the most valuable?
Unfortunately, I was unable to get any of Vermeer. It was very important. Now opening of his exhibition at the Louvre and the entire Vermeer goes there. The Louvre promised to give me his, but did not give — though we are way overdue exhibition for the year. But we will have a beautiful child portrait by Goya — I think he takes much pleasure to the audience.
I am very pleased with the arrival of one Daumier, interesting paintings from the series “Uprising”. Come portrait of Edouard Manet. Arrive Toulouse-Lautrec is one of his main works “the Clown”. Arrive still-life by Zurbaran. Come Velasquez — genre scene at the table, it is important to us, because it will be hanging next to the drinking scene by Rembrandt.
— Recently, some go to shows to throw urine pictures or break a sculpture. What do you think about this trend?
On the one hand, there is material that should not be put. For me, there are two cases: calls for war and outright pornography. There are people who are interested, and they are better to watch at home. But when in some of our newspaper showed David a question mark: “Can you show it?”, here I get into an argument. This is too much. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen the exhibition of Jock Sturges, can’t judge. What is the meaning of his photographs?
— I do not presume to decide which meaning he had invested, but this is clearly not pornography.
I spent my entire life — all 70 years of work in this Museum, surrounded by Nude statues. The human figure can be shown by different ways. It is not the sex. Why and how is key. Between Venus of Urbino and pornography there is a difference. I think I distinguish one from the other.
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In the end, and “Olympia” was considered pornography, it is also caused protests. A very revealing picture of a girl in a brothel. In the hands of her maids bouquet, she already awarded for the work. But what is pornography? What now: naked — so off? Close Of David? You know, it’s primitive. I told you how pass by David? There is a group of girls from some schools: all raise the collar and pass.
— The whole group! Quickly, God forbid to see. Why? Not developed the right attitude. Of course, such a relationship to the body, as the ancient Greeks, we will never be, but still….
— Do you feel the degradation in this sense in recent years?
— In our Museum still not feeling it. Yet, thank God, hanging “Hercules and omfala” Bush is the most outspoken picture on this story. You have the right to educate. Probably such education in schools is not doing.
— What destroyed the Siddur? It’s not about sex.
— There is, apparently, the case in the most artistic form. Another very important context. When in 1981, at a meeting in the Pompidou Museum decided where to make an exhibition “Moscow — Paris”, all were in favor of the Tretyakov gallery. But the Director of the Tretyakov gallery said, “over my dead body”. The same was repeated by the President of the Academy of arts.
To do something to defuse, I said, “our Museum has absolutely spoiled reputation. We will do this exhibition, and the body does not need.” Ironically, of course, said. Everyone laughed and sighed with relief. The place is very important. Here, and in the Tretyakov gallery, perhaps, would be a scandal. There that would ruin the image of the Museum.
— Took out the Siddur and remained virtually unpunished. This is a direct guide to action?
I am against vandalism. Don’t like it — leave. But I was more surprised — terrible lowering of public tone against injustice. Today nobody forbids to Express their point of view. I want against want.
— If Russia’s censorship in the arts?
— I censorship are not met. Oddly enough. I was not removed from office, not closed exhibitions. On the other hand, know I have a long life, and many honours were different, but there are two very expensive: “Its track” award of Vysotsky, and the award of Yury Lyubimov. You know?
— You want to say that you belong to those people who were afraid to touch?
— No, I was in that Museum… In government, too, worked with smart people. Needed some places where you have to blow off steam. Here’s a look at the exhibition “Moscow — Paris”. Malevich’s black square hung? Hung. Goncharov hung? Hung. A wall Filonov, two huge compositions of Kandinsky. Soviet official could tell foreign colleagues: “Why do you say that we don’t show? Showing.”
Yeah, Taganka was just such a place to release steam.
— That I had my own andirons. There was no meetings at which it decided: “Let’s solve”. But allowed! I didn’t want this exhibition to make, it’s understandable. After all, it was things that were not shown at all. And after the show I asked the Minister of culture about the only our Kandinsky painting: “Can I show you?” She never exhibited. The Minister looked at me intently and said, “At your discretion”. That’s all.
It’s not about courage — rather, what you believe, what you want to do. But if you want, do it until the end. I was terribly not satisfied with the current state of the minds of our intelligentsia. Here Raikin spoke, supported him. Very good, I like it a lot. Are you against it? Well speaking, show that there are people who think differently. And we all fell asleep: “well, again, they are a dog, why interfere?”.
I don’t know how you do, and I mifologiia your age. I think after 90 way of thinking must change. There’s a funny wisdom?
Just takes a lot of what seemed important, what had caused the reaction. I’ve spent yourself on something. Now, there are other things that seem important to me. In particular, I’m very concerned about the current social situation. Take Newspapers, read — one, two, three… All, in my opinion, somewhere not there. Public opinion, “custimise” which must be somewhere to go. I do not know.
— You now have the time and desire just to think — not to read, not to look and to think?
Even more than before. It to think. Before it was more hustle. Although now work to do: I still systematically lectures, and those that have never read it. They require training. Then, of course, exhibitions. When I return home, there I am again at work….
You know, you’re right, something new appears at this age. Presumably, the prolonged stay here. Well, after all I went through red square, looked at comrade Stalin, waving his hand. Because I was sure that we are a great country, and welcome leader. And then the war. I went through a lot of periods, you know?
And thaw? Full feeling: everything began. Then look — no, again ago. Then Gorbachev, and again… difficult our country, if you live a long time. One of my friends died to thaw someone else before. And to me a few months to 95 years. It’s the age, you know? I — age. If a person at this age is not yet, dangling his head to the side, he is very interesting to live.