(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 9. Concluding remarks
Resuming the situation by the time the Kulturhuset exhibition opened in August 1988, it can be said that in terms of numbers, the majority of works still came from those nine New Artists core members of the 1987 selection, while works by the eight “newcomers” played no significant role. These “core member” works were nevertheless different from those selected in 1987. In other words, the 1987 Xerox copy selection of works had become nearly obsolete. What about the works themselves? In the case of Bugaev, Kotelnikov and Novikov, they were also stylistically different, more minimalistic and geometric, which means that those earlier, more chaotic (“wild”) compositions from around 1985 were not longer included. Generally speaking, it seems that in 1988, the focus was on recent works. For instance, Kozlov’s works included several of his multi-figure paintings from 1988, next to his constructivist designs from 1987.
This raises the question of whether there was a second Kulturhuset selection in 1988. There is actually no clear answer to this question. In the chapter dedicated to the catalogue pictures, I already discussed Sissi Nilsson’s statement in her letter from 7 April 1993, “The photographer Olof Thiel had photocopies with him of all the paintings we wanted to have in the exhibition (this material we selected from our own photos or from photos we have got from the Swedish Consulate in St. Petersburg)”. Yet the catalogue pictures Olof Thiel took in Saint Petersburg in early June 1988 are not congruent with those works selected in 1987.
Could there have been a second photocopy documentation? Given the fact that the outcome of the project remained uncertain, it is hard to imagine that the Kulturhuset staff went through the whole selection process again in 1988 and sent Olof Thiel to Saint Petersburg with new photocopies. On the other hand, more than half a year had elapsed after the Stockholm proposal had been sent to the Soviet Ministry of Culture. In the meantime, Nilsson had visited Leningrad again and had most probably seen some more works that might have interested her.
The catalogue pictures and the catalogue itself suggest that the Kulturhuset team developed the project further after November 1987, though one cannot say how exactly it looked by June 1988, when Olof Thiel took the catalogue pictures: in the end, only eight of those 79 Kulturhuset exhibits were also in the catalogue. So why was it that in her letter written to E-E Kozlov five years later, in 1993, Nilsson remembered that “nearly everything we selected was in the exhibition”? I can only think that it expressed her immense relief that the exhibition did take place, and that in spite of the worrying circumstances, there was some consistency between the project and its outcome.
Clearly, what came from Leningrad to Stockholm in August 1988 depended no longer on the Kulturhuset team – or on any other official institution, for that matter, as we learn from Sissi Nilsson’s letter:
The responsible people actually took in the art as backdrop for the Pop Mekahnika concert intentionally. The label “Поп механика” (Pop Mekhanika ( Popular Mechnaics) can now be found on the reverse of several of E-E Kozlov's works that travelled to Sweden, and perhaps on works by other artists, too.
It might have been Timur Novikov who painted the name on the works after they had been collected in Leningrad; in any case, it wasn’t Kozlov himself. In my opinion, this was done not so much to avoid declaring works at the Swedish customs but to avoid declaring them at the Leningrad customs, upon leaving the country. In the Soviet Union, exporting works of art was a rather cumbersome process even with respect to contemporary art – it still is today in Russia – and it may get expensive when taking out someone else’s works. The Leningrad artists countered such bureaucratic obstacles with inventiveness and spontaneity. Obviously, Artur Savin, the Komsomol representative, didn’t mind avoiding bureaucracy either, as it would have been his task to make the necessary arrangements with the customs. Most importantly, taking the works as backdrops solved the problem of getting a permission to sell them abroad instead of declaring them for temporary exportation. There was no longer any need to do what was discussed in 1987: pay a guarantee sum to a “valuta gallery” or similar institution.
I’m not quite sure how to interpret Sissi Nilsson’s expression “we declared it to the artists”. Did she say that the Kulturhuset declared the works when they arrived and paid Swedish customs duties? But this doesn’t sound convincing, because in another letter from 25 April 1994, Nilsson wrote that no list of works was ever completed in Sweden. Besides, it would have meant declaring each single piece – a massive work to be done at a moment when the exhibition was about to be opened and the paintings had to be displayed very quickly. The first such list was actually established with Fredrik Vogel's consignation documents, signed by the artists September / October 1988, which allowed Vogel to sign his contract with Kulturhuset on 17 October 1988. But it contains only those works Vogel took from Sweden to Denmark, that is, a fraction of the works that came to Stockholm: Kozlov (7), Novikov (10), Savchenkov (3), Kotelnikov (8), Bugaev (15), Sotnikov (8), Ovchinnikov (2), Zaika (2), Maslov and Kozin (2).
Therefore, “declare” might have been used as a synonym for “explain”, meaning that the Kulturhuset explained everyone, including the Soviet embassy in Sweden, that it was not taking over responsibility for sales, should they happen. In other words, artists could sell their works directly and collect the money on the spot without paying Swedish taxes. Of course, this applied only to those artists who travelled to Sweden: Timur Novikov, Sergei Bugaev, Oleg Kotelnikov and Evgeny Yufit. And since they left before the end the exhibition, they had to make arrangements so that the art collectors could actually collect the works once the exhibition closed.
Bringing in the works without a list also means that no one actually knew – or knows – what exactly came to Sweden with the artists and musicians. Exhibitions views only show us what was displayed, but there were other works, too. In the case of E-E Kozlov participation, this can be seen in the correspondence with Sissi Nilsson and in Fredrik Vogel’s consignment document. Apart from those seven works displayed at the Kulturhuset, there were at least four other works that travelled to Sweden: “Star. 6 Figures”, “USA-CCCP”, “CHINA-CCCP” and “Swimmers”.
“Star. 6 Figures” and “USA-CCCP” were among those seven of Kozlov's paintings entrusted to Fredrik Vogel after the Stockholm exhibition; in the consignment document, they are entitled "Rödvit Mansfigur" (Red And White Male Figure) and "Dragspelare" (Accordionists).
Concerning the other two, Sergei Bugaev (Afrika) acted on his own behalf, as Sissi Nilsson wrote:
While “CCCP-CHINA” was returned to the artist, the whereabouts of “Swimmer” are unknown. The same goes for two of Kozlov’s exhibited works, “Хочу Е Я (и ЯЯ)” / I want her (and I I) and “Улыбающийся Серп / Smiling Sickle”. In his letter to me, dated 15 October 1992, Fredrik Vogel wrote that “Smiling Sickle” was sold to Jeanette Bonnier. Some years ago, I tried to verify this information with Bonniers Konsthall, the museum founded by Jeanette Bonnier in Stockholm, but it wasn’t confirmed.
The other painting, “I want her (and I I)” was shown a second time in Stockholm in December 1988, during an exhibition of Russian artists at Pierre Munkeborg Antik & Inredningar, Stockholm. In Sara Åkerrén archive is a letter signed by Sergei Bugaev on 2 September 1988 consigning “I and I” (as well as works by Bugaev himself, Yufit, Savchenkov and Kotelnikov) to the organisers of the exhibition – which explains why the painting was crossed out in the Fredrik Vogel’s consignment document. What happened after the exhibition I cannot say.
On the other hand, two works that should have travelled to Sweden weren’t in the exhibition: “Timur on Horseback”, printed on the catalogue cover, and its counterpart “Portrait of Guryanov”, created in the same technique, a picture of which is among Olof Thiel’s catalogue reproductions. The painting “Portrait of Guryanov” reappeared in 2010 in the exhibition catalogue “Brushstroke” (Russian Museum, Saint Petersburg) as a work in the collection of Sergei Bugaev. This means that instead of taking it to Sweden, Bugaev kept it to himself. And when I asked Bugaev about “Timur on Horseback” in 2019, he simply said, “This one was sold long ago”.
Although the Kulturhuset guests’ elegant “backdrop” coup doubtlessly saved the exhibition, it also meant that for the Swedish organisational team, the situation somehow got out of hand: for better or worse, they lost control of the selection of paintings – and to some degree, of the paintings themselves. Judging by Sissi Nilsson’s letter and by the document in Sara Åkerrén’s archive, this competence was partly transferred to Sergei Bugaev: he was regarded as an authorised agent with respect to trading the works of others. However, “trading” didn’t mean sharing the proceeds with the artists, at least not in the case of Evgenij Kozlov.
Yet not everyone accepted how Bugaev handled the situation – or Novikov, for that matter. Fredrik Vogel, in his letter from 15 October 1992, states ”I hope you are aware of the fact that both Sergei Bugajev and Timur Novikov behaved in an extremely rude manner both to me and other organizers of exhibitions I know, and I do not want anything to do with those two again. I say this because in many ways I fell that they overshadowed the other members of the group in a bad way.”
Ultimately, whether Bugaev and Novikov promoted the New Artists in the West or, quite the contrary, prevented their promotion, leaves room for speculation.
Hannelore Fobo, 23 February 2022.
 Bugaev displayed Kozlov’s “Portrait of Guryanov” in 2013 at The Russian Academy of Fine Arts Museum, Saint-Petersburg during “ASSA. The Last Generation of the Leningrad Avant-garde”, an exhibition with works from what he considers to be his collection. The exhibition created a scandal when four artists whose works were included in the exhibition (Oleg Zaika, Evgenij Kozlov, Oleg Maslov, and Inal Savchenkov) filed suit against Sergei Bugaev to get their works back. more>>
In an attempt to reject the claims, Bugaev argued that the works in question were not at all created by these very artists. When the plaintiff successfully proved their authorship, he changed his strategy. Regarding Kozlov’s “Portrait of Guryanov”, Bugaev and his supporters used a bizarre argument to underpin their claim that Bugaev was its legal owner: allegedly, Kozlov had intntionally left his painting at Timur Novikov’s place unfinished so that other artists could complete it.