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Hannelore Fobo

Timur Novikov's New Artists Lists

October 2018

page 8The “Mayakovsky Friends Club” and the “Club of the Appreciation of Amateur Creativity”

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page 8The “Mayakovsky Friends Club” and the “Club of the Appreciation of Amateur Creativity”

In September 1986, Novikov and his New Artists friends would create two such formal associations, the “Mayakovsky Friends Club” (Клуб друзей В.В. Маяковского, Klub druziei V.V.Mayakovskogo) and the “Club of the Appreciation of Amateur Creativity” (Клуб любителей народного творчества, Klub liubitelei narodnogo tvorchestva; “narodny” can have both meanings, “amateur“ or “folk” creativity).

Mimicking the structure of official organisations and adapting succinct labels, they were hoping that these associations would make them look more respectable in the eyes of those authorities which could provide them with a permanent exhibition space. With two different premises allotted by the City government, the Literary Club 81 had given the example of a successful battle for recognition. The problem was pressing: Novikov’s squat on Woinov st., which functioned as the ASSA Gallery, was expected to be evicted any time; it happened in 1987.

To complete the number of New Artists associations, I should add two more. The “Academy of all Sorts“ is listed in the chronicle with 29 December 1985 as the date of foundation, the very day the Pop Mekhanika concert took place at the Rock Club. The “New Creative Association” (Новое творческое объединение) is documented with an undated charter, signed by V. Gutsevich / G. Bronislavskii and Igor Potapov / Timur Novikov. The document is in Sergey Chubraev’s private archive. I have not seen documents relating to the “Academy of all Sorts“, but I assume that neither the “New Creative Association” nor the “Academy of all Sorts“ became a registered association. They are therefore of lesser interest in the context of this chapter. Documents cited in the following paragraphs are also from Sergey Chubraev’s archive.

The “Mayakovsky Friends Club” (with Bugaev as chairman and Novikov as his deputy) and the “Club of the Appreciation of Amateur Creativity“ (chairman: Gutsevich) were both registered with the Vodokanal Club, the Youth Centre of the Dzerzhinsky District (Молодежный центр Джерзинского района, клуб “Водоканал” / Molodezhnii Tsentr Dzerzinskogo raiona, klub “Vodokanal”). Reports of projects carried out as well as task schedules exist only for 1986 and 1987, and their formal existence seems to have been restricted to that period.

As the name suggests, the official mission of the “Mayakovsky Friends Club” was to spread knowledge about the Russian avant-garde poet. The report from 5 October 1987 starts

    За первый год работы клуба удалось значительно поднять интерес к творчеству В.В. Маяковского и его соратников в среде молодой творческой интеллигенции, что является основной целью клуба. / During its first year of activities the Club has been able to significantly raise interest in the work of V.V. Mayakovsky and his associates in the circles of the young creative intelligentsia, which is the Club’s main goal.

The report states the following sections: literature, music, visual art, scholarly criticism, cinema with photography as a sub-section, theatre, and archive – that is, similar to those of an Academy of Arts. Novikov, Bugaev, Gutsevich, and some others headed the sections. The report also states that because of lack of premises, all activities were carried out through the sections of other organisations, without, however, specifying them further. The New Artists are mentioned as “the main members of the section of visual art”, but judging by the description of sections’ activities, New artists dominated all other sections, as well.

In contrast to the “Mayakovsky Friends Club” with its intellectual image, the name “Club of the Appreciation of Amateur Creativity” corresponded to the traditional Soviet concept of allowing “amateur artists” to carry out their hobbies within some type of official structures. We have seen such an example with the Rock Club’s affiliation to “The Leningrad Inter-Union House of Amateur Culture.”

The regulations of the “Club of the Appreciation of Amateur Creativity” stated as 1.1.


    Клуб любителей народного творчества основывается на добровольности, общих творческих интересах и индивидуальности членства участников, и создается с целью удовлетворения многообразных духовных запросов и интересов советских людей в сфере свободного времени. / The “Club of the Appreciation of Amateur Creativity” is based on the principle of voluntariness, common interest in creativity and individual membership. Its goal is to meet the manifold spiritual queries and interests the Soviet people experience in the sphere of their leisure time.

In this way, Novikov and his friends had the possibility to use two different labels for their activities – whichever deemed more appropriate — or both at the same time.  

According to Ksenia Novikova’s chronicle, the “Club of the Appreciation of Amateur Creativity” also had seven sections; such sections are, however, not mentioned in the Club’s regulations or in any other document available to me. The seven chronicle sections display sixty-seven affiliations by a total of forty-one members – 1.63 affiliations per member. (New Artists, 2012, pp. 274 / 275).

A difficulty arises from the fact that the forty-one chronicle names are only partly congruent with those forty-six members from the Club’s official book, although they both refer to one and the same institution: the “Club of the Appreciation of Amateur Creativity”. The Club’s book demonstrates that all of its forty-six members joined in August and September 1986, around the time of the Club’s registration. The entries are quite detailed. For the association to acquire a legal status, members were required to indicate personal data: year of birth, occupation, workplace, address, telephone number, and date of admission.

Besides, I cannot say whether such a book exists or existed for the “Mayakovsky Friends Club”, or whether its club members where indeed registered officially – none of the documents I have seen provides a list of members. The report from 5 October 1987 ends with a sentence indicating a total seventy-five members. Yet in comparison to the forty-six names in the member’s book from the “Club of the Appreciation of Amateur Creativity”, it is difficult to image that seventy-five people went through the same procedure of registration with the “Mayakovsky Friends Club”, especially if we bear in mind that many would have had to register with both associations.

It is astonishing that among those forty-six members listed in the official book of the “Club of the Appreciation of Amateur Creativity” there are relatively few New Artists per se – seven, to be exact. Here are their names followed by the registration number in brackets: Gutsevich (1), Ovchinnikov (2), Novikov (3), Sotnikov (5), Kotelnikov (19), Medvedev (45) and Maslov (46). On the other hand, Bugaev, Kozlov, Khazanovich Yufit, Savchenkov, Verichev, Kozin, Alakhov, Krisanov and Guryanov are all missing. Yet all of them are in Ksenia Novikova’s chronicle lineup of the “Club of the Appreciation of Amateur Creativity”.

The situation looks a bit different if we use the term New Artists in the larger sense, as a movement. We may then add another five or six names, but together they make up only about a third of those forty-six entries. Among the other two thirds – all of them not in the chronicle lineup – are, for instance, Dmitry Shagin and Alexander Florensky from “Mitki”, a group inclined towards Russian folk art, as well as “primitivist”  Natalya Batisheva and “neo-expressionist“ Arkady Tager.

I do not know Ksenia Novikova’s source for the chronicle lineup – obviously, it cannot have been the official book. One possibility to explain the discrepancies between the two lists is that Novikov compiled his own lineup for the “Club of the Appreciation of Amateur Creativity” on the basis of New Artists’ activities – perhaps prior to the actual registration, as a project or a wish-list –, and that this list was published in the chronicle.

At any rate, the chronicle names very much correspond to the situation in 1986 representing the New Artists as a movement. It has most New Artists per se, (although not all of them in the section “visual artist”), many Necrorealists, performers from the New Theatre and from Pop-Mekhanika concerts, and some other visual artists. The chronicle list can therefore be considered as a type of idealised “administrative branch” of the New Artists movement, as perceived by Novikov in 1986.

At the same time, the New Artists per se remained untouched by any formal structure: no formal requirements ever existed to become a member of the New Artists. Novikov didn’t have to ask a specific person whether they wanted to become a New artist or not – he simply included this person into his list, as the example of Sergey Sergeev demonstrates.

Sergeev’s name appears in two sections of the chronicle’s “Club of the Appreciation of Amateur Creativity“, painting and music (but he is not in the official club’s list). Novikov valued Sergeev’s painting and mentioned him as a New artist in his 1986 text “The New Artists” (text no 4). Sergeev himself declines having been a New artist, although he painted Novikov’s portrait. In a private email from 10 September 2018, he wrote me that he was not a member of the New Artists group (nor of the larger New Artists movement, for that matter), because he rarely ever thought of belonging to any group. He writes that he nevertheless fully supported Timur Novikov as a theoretician and ideologist (“поддерживал Тимура, как теоретика и идеолога во всем”). In other words, Novikov, making Sergeev a member of his group, over-interpreted Sergeev’s appreciation of his, Novikov’s, role. In this context, it is interesting to note that Novikov did not mention Sergeev in his retrospective texts.

It seems that Novikov reconsidered, from time to time, his ideas of who was or should have been a New artist in the context of an artist collective. Although he never changed the lineup radically, this added to it being “fickle“.

Whether or not the chronicle lineup of the “Club of the Appreciation of Amateur Creativity“ had any factual underpinning, it clearly shows that once a loosely organised group undergoes a process of formalisation, the ambiguities disappear, at least for that precise moment in time. The written form of an organisational chart requires a classification according to well-defined categories.

We will now have a closer look at these categories.

In the chronicle lineup, three artists appear with two names each: Timur Novikov / Igor Potapov, Vladislav Gutsevich / Gennady Bronnislavsky, and A. (Alexander) Nikolaev / Zakhar Nikolaev. I have reduced such double names to one. If I have not overlooked any other double names and if there are no other fictitious names or pseudonyms, we obtain the number of members for each section (indicated in brackets): Scholarly Criticism (3), Literature (7), Theatre (12) Painting (20), Music (12), Cinema and Photography (7), and Fashion (6). If we compare them with the sections from the “Mayakovsky Friends Club”, we notice a minor difference: it has “fashion” instead of “archive”.

The distribution of members to sections is quite interesting. Twenty-four members are affiliated to a single section. The remaining seventeen members hold forty-three section affiliations – two and a half on average. Their affiliations to the respective sections roughly reflect their artistic activities in various fields. Most of these seventeen members, though not all, are from the New Artists per se.

Some New artists are even omnipresent. (Ideally, each New artist should have mastered all skills, but this might have looked a bit over the top.)

In five sections we find Novikov’s name: Scholarly Criticism (as Igor Potapov), Theatre, Painting, Music, and Fashion – that is, in all sections with the exception of two: Literature, and Cinema and Photography. Oleg Kotelnikov is also in five sections, Vladislav Gutsevich, apart from being chairman, in three sections (also under his pseudonym Gennady Bronnislavsky), Sergei Bugaev and Georgy Guryanov also in three each. Statistically, each of these five artists held 3.8 “offices”.

Accordingly, twelve members fulfil two functions each, among them five from the New Artists per se: Kirill Khazanovich, Igor Verichev, Yevgeny Yufit, Evgenij Kozlov, and Vadim Ovchinnikov. The other seven are Natalya Pivovarova, Alexander Kan, Natalia Turik, Oleg Kolomeichuk, Sergei Sergeev, Roman Zhigunov, and Alexander Nikolaev (Zakhar).

Seven New Artists per se are represented with a single section: Andrei Medvedev, Alexei Kozin, Oleg Maslov, Ivan Sotnikov, Andrei Krisanov, Inal Savchenkov, and Valery Alakhov.

This adds up to seventeen of those twenty New Artists per se I defined in my adapted version of Novikov’s autobiography. Not included are Valery Cherkassov, which makes sense, because he was no longer alive, Oleg Zaika, which is strange, since he collaborated with Maslov and Kozin, and Viktor Tsoy from the KINO band, who would have been a perfect candidate for the music section.

If Novikov actually compiled the list, we may regard all others as belonging – in Novikov’s view – to the larger New Artists movement. Many were related to the New Artists group through Pop-Mekhanika concerts, New Theatre performances or through the Necrorealists.

Here is the complete list of these twenty-four members:

Alexander Kan, Alexei Feoktistov, Inna Lakhmatova, Andrey Kurmayartsev, S. Gubinsky, A. Vasiliev, Rodion Zavernyaev, Natalya Pivovarova, Natalia Turik, Oleg Kolomeichuk, Sergei Sergeev, Alexei Vermichev, Mikhail Taratuta, Yuri Krasev, Roman Zhigunov, A. Bulaev, Nikolaev (Zakhar Nikolaev), Sergei Shutov, Mikhail Malin, German Vinogradov, Alexei Svinarsky-Skoropomoshnik, Tatyana Korneeva, Sergey Sveshnikov, Evgeny Kondratev.

I know it is somewhat risky to rely on a chronicle entry when defining the New Artists movement. We do not know its source, and even if we knew it, we would have to keep in mind that at least Sergey Sergeev does not agree to be in this list. I would therefore consider it to be no more than an approximate or interim list which might be reduced – or enlarged with artists from the late 1980s, for instance with Andrey Khlobystin. Novikov mentions Khlobystin in his lecture about the New Artists from 2002 (text non 11), although in his autobiography he refers to Khlobystin only in relation to the New Academy. Once we have a more comprehensive picture of New Artists activities and lineups, we will be able to complete the picture.

The chronicle lineup of the “Club of the Appreciation of Amateur Creativity” actually displays a particular feature.

With twenty out of forty-one members, the painting section was by far the largest. Among them are twelve New Artists per se. But only seven are also found in any other section. This distinguishes the “Club of the Appreciation of Amateur Creativity” from the New Artists per se who, as quoted above, “Having mastered recomposition […] set about mastering different genres: music, literature, theatrical performance, film”. (Timur, 2013 p. 153, text no 11)

We may resume that here, painting, although still important, is no longer the higher-ranking category from where a New artist sets out to master different genres. What is more, New Artists Evgeny Yufit (theatre, cinema and photography), Georgy Guryanov (theatre, music, fashion), Igor Verichev (theatre, music) and Andrei Medvedev (music), all known for their painting, were not even members of the painting section. A certain arbitrariness manifests itself with the distribution of members to sections.

to page 9 • Sergey Kuryokhin’s Pop-Mekhanika. The principle of reciprocity. >>
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© Hannelore Fobo, uploaded 29 October 2018
Last updated 28 March 2020