(E-E) Ev.g.e.n.i.j ..K.o.z.l.o.v Berlin
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov: exhibitions >> • Leningrad 80s >>
De Nya från Leningrad / The New from Leningrad,
Kulturhuset, Stockholm, 27 August – 25 September 1988
Text and research: Hannelore Fobo, January / February 2022
Chapter 1. The four phases of the Kulturhuset festival project
Perestroika gradually allowed Soviet “unofficial” artists to go public, and with it, opportunities arose to present works not only at home, but also in other countries, such as Poland (Gallery Kantor Sztuki, Gdansk, October-November 19871987 more>>). 1988 marked the year when works by the New Artists first travelled to exhibitions in the West, mainly as the result of private contacts and initiatives. A prominent example is that of American rock singer Joanna Stingray. Today, Stingray is well known for the 1986 release of “Red Wave”, a double album of Leningrad rock bands more>>. But Stingray not only promoted Soviet underground music in the USA. With New Artists works she had smuggled out from the Soviet Union, she presented, in 1988, two “Red Wave” exhibitions in Los Angeles – at Jerry Solomon Gallery in January, and at the Stock Exchange in April.
The Kulturhuset exhibition was, however, different from these “private” initiatives – which include the London and Rotterdam exhibitions mentioned in the introduction – in that it was organised by an official institution, the cultural administration of the City of Stockholm. This meant that there were larger possibilities of financing the project, such as printing a catalogue, but most importantly, of inviting a number of artists and musicians.
On the other hand, the institutional factor also meant that preparations had to go through official channels, which inevitably led to increased bureaucracy. Supported by the Swedish Institute, the project involved the Swedish General Consulate (Leningrad) and several Soviet counterparts: the Soviet Ministry of Culture, the Soviet Embassy (Stockholm), and the Leningrad Komsomol (see Kulturhuset press release from 15 August 1988). Luckily, bureaucracy also means that many documents have been preserved in public and private archives.
In 2013, I received a number of scans of pictures from the Kulturhuset archive, and in 2014, I visited the Kulturhuset archive to look for more documents relating to the 1988 exhibition. In 2021, I had a chance to visit Sara Åkerrén’s private archive. Sara Åkerrén, whose father was Consul General of Sweden in Leningrad at that time, knew the Leningrad art and music scene quite well and was involved with several New Artists exhibitions more>>, among them the one at the Kulturhuset.
Concerning De Nya från Leningrad / The New from Leningrad, these archives complete each other, and they also complete the information I retrieved at the beginning of the 1990s. I translated Swedish documents into English with the help of an online translating programme and corrected the results, when necessary.
Although these documents do not cover the entire two-year period of the festival project, they nevertheless demonstrate that the idea was realised in successive stages. I decided to divide the two-year period into four phases:
– The first, incubation phase, goes from (some time in) 1986 to April 1987. It starts with Fredrik Vogel’s presentation of his April 1986 photo-documentation of Leningrad artists to the Kulturhuset staff. It led to the idea of realising a large-scale project. This phase is not further documented.
– The second phase concerns the elaboration of a plan of action. It lasts from April 1987, the beginning of Sissi Nilsson’s correspondence with the Swedish Consulate in Leningrad, to November 1987, with City of Stockholm’s proposal for a Leningrad festival in the presence of artists and musicians, addressed to the Soviet Minister of Culture. At this point, the project was planed for the beginning of 1988. A large number of pictures of artwork selected and not selected complete the Kulturhuset-Swedish Consulate correspondence.
– The third or implementation phase covers the period from November 1987 up to the exhibition in August 1988 and might be called times of troubles. According to Sissi Nilsson, the team “nearly lost all hope to get the possibility to arrange the exhibition”, but at the end of June 1988, an official permission arrived and everything, including the catalogue, was planned “very rapidly”. This phase is documented only for the last two to three months, after official permission had been given. At least it seems plausible that names, contacts and venues in Sissi Nilsson’s undated notebook entries (Kulturhuset archive) relate to this quite intensive working period.
– Finally, the fourth phase concerns the exhibition and festival itself. With a list of musicians and artists invited, catalogue, poster, invitation cards, exhibition views, list of events, press release, press reviews etc., this phase is rather well documented, There also exists a private video documentation of the Pop Mekhanika concert.
Following this division, it is the second phase that provides an initial documentation of the project. The relevant documents explain the festival’s main concept and expound the plan of action, including the process of selecting the exhibits. In these documents, the group is often referred to as ASSA group, as the name New Artists (Новые художники / Novye khudozhnki) had not yet fully been established.
 Similar institutional activities can be noted regarding Moscow artists: for example by Circ, the Culturel Bureau Rusland, founded by Dutch students in 1986. Circ’s first major project was Hermitage in Holland, an exhibition presenting artists from the Moscow “Hermitage Garden” group: Sergei Bordyastov, Goshya Ostretsov, Nikolai Filatov, Sergei Shutov, Yuri Petruk, Andrei Roiter, Georgy Litichevsky, Garik Vinogradov and Sergey Volkov. The exhibition was part of a larger festival at the Technical University Eindhoven, organised by Leopold Manche (Studium Generale of the Technische Universteit van Eindhoven) in January / February 1988: “Perestrojka, de Soviet-Unie in de steigers” (Perestroika. The Soviet Union in Scaffolding). After Einhoven, the exhibition travelled to Delft, Amsterdam, Sneek and Tilburg more>>.
 According to Thomas Lundén, the Swedish Institute (SI), was Sweden’s primary institution for cultural and public diplomacy. See next chapter.