Exhibitions of the Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan: Introduction to the Art Overseas

Issue #1 • 1450

Opening of the exhibition of the SOC
member countries. 2006.

Exhibitions are one of the priority areas in the activity of the Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan (AAU). The 10-year milestone in the life of the Academy is the time to size up and look at the results of what has been done in the area of introducing general public to various aspects of art overseas. The studies of extensive archive material over the decade enables one to see how much higher has become the status of exhibition activity, a significant phenomenon in the country’s cultural life, which requires differentiation and deeper insight. Without an objective to cover all exhibitions of foreign art in Uzbekistan, the author, using the material of selected exhibition projects, outlines key directions in the development of contemporary exhibition-related activity of the AAU, its leading areas, and, most importantly, the implementation of priority cultural policies of independent Uzbekistan. Analytical review of the implemented exhibition projects presenting the rich culture of different nations, continents, artistic traditions and schools enables one to conclude that over ten yeas the AAU has done a huge amount of work.

To organize an exhibition abroad, it is not enough to merely be a talented artist; one has to have contacts, established partner relations, and knowledge about the concept of museum and exhibition centre operation abroad; one has to overcome the “own – alien” problem, take into account specific mentality and the specificity of art market, and have the skill of making a sophisticated audience interested. Anne Cahen-Delhaye, Director General of the Royal Museum of Arts and History of Belgium, underscores: “We cannot afford uninteresting exhibitions, as our museum exists primarily at the expense of selling tickets to visitors. People will not come to see a poor exhibition.” (1)

Opening of the Biennale-2005.

Over the years of independence we have discovered the world, and the world has discovered us. Perhaps, it will not be erroneous to argue that the first decade of exhibition activity of the AAU passed under the motto “We are open to the world”. During that period the first artistic contacts were established; our exhibition venues were made available to the art from different countries, and, most importantly, the Uzbek audience had a chance to see with their own eyes the diversity of the world, art and creative work of foreign artists. We made an attempt at differentiating the exhibitions of foreign art that took place in Uzbekistan and saw a curious picture that reflected the historical period we live in, its pulse, its political, social, moral and artistic issues, and an aspiration of different nations and cultures on the verge of the centuries and the millennia, to understand one another and establish a dialogue.

Researchers develop different classifications for modern-day exhibitions. We have tried to consider the exhibitions of foreign art in Uzbekistan in terms of their content, connection to society, and the problems they address. Methodologically, we decided to use the classification introduced into the art management system by well-known researchers M. Dragichevich-Sheshich and B. Stoikovich (2, p. 159). Among the foreign art exhibitions of the decade, the majority were artistic exhibitions, including personal, retrospective, collective, international contest and programmatic. Most of them were personal exhibitions. Nowadays, for the Uzbek audience the work of a foreign artist does not only mean an introduction to his works, but also getting to know his country, history, art and culture of his nation. In this plane, the staff of the Central Exhibition Hall (CEH), the Center of Contemporary Art (CCA, now the Art Exhibition Directorate) and the Tashkent House of Photography of the Academy of Arts have carried out a lot of work to present personal exhibitions of artists from both the CIS and outside.

For instance, quite memorable in the cultural life of the country were the following exhibitions held in 2002 in the CCA: graphics by Azerbaijani woman-artist M. Agaeva organized together with the Embassy of Azerbaijan; personal exhibition of Moldovan photography artist Veleriy Volontir called “People of Moldavia” organized jointly with the Embassy of Moldova; the exhibition of Liudmila Grinberg “Reflections” assisted by the Embassy of Latvia in Uzbekistan; as well as the exhibition of a Kyrgyz artist Yuristambek Shygaev held in the CEH in March 2003.

The interaction between Russian and Uzbek art is common knowledge. For instance, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and in 1920s-1930s Central Asia inspired Russian artists, which helped the evolvement of Orientalism in Russian art. Not only did Central Asia introduce new and unusual thematic aspects into the work of Russian artists, but it also influenced the development of form, thus enriching the creative language of the 20th century art.

Central Asian vanguard was a unique phenomenon reflecting the junction of mentality, culture and spirituality of East and West, and by right has taken a worthy place in the global artistic culture of the 20th century. Speaking about Russian-Uzbek cultural links at the end of the 20th century, one can mention the exhibition of Valentin Sidorov, Academician of the Russian Academy of Arts, held in the CEH of the AAU. The academic school of realism remains core in the artistic education system of Uzbekistan. In this respect, the works by Sidorov also excited certain interest.

The artistic culture of Central Asian countries, Iran, Egypt, Israel, China, Korea and Japan is a sample of great ancient cultures of Orient, which today are a universally recognized, all-mankind and global asset. Notwithstanding the complexity and specificity of historical development paradigms, particularly in the 20th century, today countries of the East come to the idea of commonality in their historical and cultural heritage, true spirituality and specific mentality of oriental culture, and the need to comprehend, study and preserve its priorities and values.

For a long time Japan, for example, remained a country of mystery to us. A photo exhibition called “Dialogue with Nature” by Japanese master of photography Daisaku Ikeda, President of International Buddhist Society “Soka Gakkai International”, that was held in December 2002 in the CCA, opened to us ways to preserve philosophic and world-outlook foundations of traditional Japanese culture in contemporary artistic process. The exhibition “On the Great Silk Road” (December 2002, CCA) presenting the work of a Japanese artist, President of the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music, the international member of the AAU, Honorary Citizen of Tashkent, Professor Ikuo Hiroyama, introduced local audience to the famous international highway. Ikuo Hiroyama was awarded Gold medal of the AAU.

A special place in the exhibition activity of the AAU is given to the presentation of contemporary European art. In this respect, the mobility and ease of transportation of photo exhibitions determined their diversity, increased frequency and eventually the establishment of the Tashkent House of Photography (THP). Thus, of special liking to the audience in 2003 were: the exhibition of an Israeli master of photography M. Levit, titled “Jerusalem: Moments of Eternity” (CCA); and the exhibition of S. Vasselin “My Normandy” (THP) organized by the AAU and the Embassy of France.

Along with personal exhibitions, retrospective ones also occupy a significant place in the exhibition activity. They include the exhibition of lithographs by Henry Moore (2004) that facilitated the expansion of the range of creative search pursued by contemporary Uzbek artist. The exhibition was organized by the AAU and the British Council.

An example of holding collective exhibitions can be exhibitions of Korean and Uzbek artists organized by the AAU and the Embassy of the Republic of Korea. Once can declare with confidence that the Days of Korean Culture in Uzbekistan have also become a tradition. Owing to the fine arts exhibitions, concert performances and films our nations get to know one another better, which, certainly, facilitates the enrichment and further development of cultures.

Fragment of the Japanese
dolls exhibition.

The exhibitions of Korean and Uzbek artists demonstrate not only the diversity of stylistic search and trends in contemporary art, but also a commonality in the quest for spirituality, an attempt to preserve national uniqueness in culture, celebration of the beauty of nature, attainment of common to all mankind humanistic values and a great desire to understand one another.

The decade has generated a wealth of positive experience in holding international competitive exhibitions. Important events in the cultural life of the country were the Tashkent contemporary art Biennale (2001, 2003 and 2005) that produce a great impact on the development of innovative trends in the art of Uzbekistan. An international photo exhibition titled “Women: New Century, New Image, New Role” (October 2002, CCA) organized by the UN Women Development Fund (UNIFEM) Regional Office in the CIS countries together with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in Uzbekistan presented 180 works of the winners and awardees of the same-named international contest from 14 countries.

“Water is Life” – that was the title of an exhibition held at the THP based on the results of an international photography contest dedicated to the International Fresh Water Year 2003, that was held from May to September 2003 for the countries of Eastern and Central Europe and CIS. Over 1,000 colour and monochrome pictures made by 271 masters from 19 countries of the region, and also from China, India, Italy, France and Thailand, arrived to take part in the contest. The THP put on display 300 finest works, including photographs taken by M. Golovachev (Uzbekistan) – the winner of the contest, A. Ishak (Turkey) who was second, and V. Antanavichyute (Lithuania) and V. Sokolov who took the third place. The contest was organized by the AAU, the UN Office in Uzbekistan and the UN European Economic Commission.

A special place in the AAU exhibition activity is given to thematic exhibitions. These include the one titled “Greece – Uzbekistan: Ancient Cultural Links” (2001, CEH). This was the first joint project prepared by the AAU, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Greek Republic and the Embassy of Greece in Moscow. The exhibition displayed about 100 exhibits of antique art from the collection of the Research Institute of Art History: sculpture, murals, terracotta, ceramics, antique coins and various items used in everyday life.

During the period of independence a new impetus was given to the cultural links connecting Uzbekistan and Iran, the origin of which goes back to antiquity and the Middle Ages. Thus, the official visit to Uzbekistan of the former President of the Islamic Republic of Iran Muhammad Hatami in April 2002 became a turning point in galvanizing cultural and academic links and productive bilateral cooperation between our countries. The exhibition of works by Uzbek and Iranian miniaturists held in the CEH of the AAU, which Mr. Hatami visited, demonstrated the commonality of problems in contemporary miniature painting in our countries. In 2004 the International Caravan-Sarai of Culture of the AAU housed an exhibition of Iranian ceramists, which exhibited over 40 works by Iranian masters Muhammad Mahdiy Anushf and Sukhail Shaboniy. Vases, lamps, jugs and platters manufactured by them caused admiration of the Uzbek audience by their elegant shapes, perfection of line and originality. The first representative of Iranian video art in Uzbekistan was Iranian artist Ahmad Nadalian, the prize-winner of the Tashkent Biennale 2005, in which 75 artists from 26 countries took part.

Many thematic exhibitions were aimed at introducing the culture, traditions, customs and art of West- and East-European countries, the USA and countries in the Far East. These exhibitions include “Rodeo in the American West” (2003, CCA) that demonstrated the works of Joe Bensen, the American photographer who perished in July 2001; the works were provided by the US Embassy in Uzbekistan and introduced visitors to rodeo and traditions of American cowboys.

Photo exhibition titled “Einblicke. Germany for Children” (April 16 – May 2, 2003, CCA) organized by Goethe Institute helped children to get information about Germany. In the same line one can also mention an exhibition called “Features of Young Graphic Art in France” (2003, CCA) that presented graphic design. The organizers were the Hugo French Cultural Centre and Goethe Institute. Also dedicated to design was a mobile exhibition called “Wit and Mind” run by Goethe Institute and Munich Design Centre (June 2003, CCA), with an assistance from the Hugo French Cultural Centre. The purpose of the exhibition was to show the most recent design developments in German industry and the role of design in modern society.

Quite successful was an international photo exhibition “Budapest – the Mirror of Our History” (June 2003, THP), where 50 works were put on display. The exhibition was prepared by the AAU, the THP, Municipality of Tashkent together with the Municipality of Budapest and the Department for protection of Architectural Heritage of Hungary. Fifty photographs by the masters of Japanese photographic art presented various aspects of life and nature in the Country of the Rising Sun at the exhibition of creative photography “State and Mood: People and Nature of Japan” (November 2003, THP). To reveal the facets of traditional Japanese culture was the purpose of poster exhibitions “Noh Theatre Masks” (November 2003, CCA) by graphic designer F. Norio, and “Rainbow in Kagero Village. The Fox Wedding” by S. Siodzawa, as well as the exhibition of Japanese dolls (March 2004, CEH).

Introduction to the traditional culture of women’s ritual art compositionally structured on the basis of geometrical forms to embody religious/magical symbols that passed from generation to generation from mother to daughter for centuries – this was the purpose of the exhibition of paintings “Madhubani” (November 2003, CEH) organized by the AAU jointly with the Indian Cultural Centre. The three sections of the exhibition presented 40 works. Paintings, graphic art and photographs constituted the exposition of an exhibition titled “Vietnam in the Works of Artists” (December 2003) that was held at the International Caravan-Sarai of Culture and presented about 100 works by Uzbek and Vietnamese artists.

43 fashion designers from Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan participated in the Osiyo Ramzi festival (June 2000, CEH). The festival demonstrated that national peculiarity is the part of ethnic peculiarity that comes from the depth of centuries, and that it is a whole world that is both traditional and modern, canonic and renewing at the same time, that lives by its own laws and feeds creative pursuits of modern-day designers. In early 2004 the CCA housed an exhibition called “The New Year Kaleidoscope” dedicated to the New Year celebrations in the countries of the Far East. Its expositions included over 150 works by Vietnamese, Japanese, Chinese and Korean masters provided by the THP, as well as graphic works and items of applied art made of porcelain and faience (China).

The proof of the expanded range of exhibition activities was also an exhibition called “The Rhythms of the Black Continent” (March 2004, CCA). It demonstrated paintings and graphic art by Uzbekistan artists and over 100 items of traditional artistic crafts of Africa. The collectors presented sculpture, masks, textile, straw wicker-work and costumes from different regions of Africa, as well as creative photographs.

Fragment of the “Myth about
Alexander” exhibition. 2006.

Dedicated to the 12th anniversary of independence of the Republic of Uzbekistan was an exhibition (September 2003, CEH) of Uzbek and Austrian artists as an output of a project titled “Vienna – Tashkent – Vienna: Integrated Space”. About 30 works of painting and graphics constituted its exposition. Among the artists presented were: M. Buisman, M. Znozhemsky, A. Ressi, K. Meyer, M. Sadykov, L. Sadykova, I. Shin, V. Troshina, V. Yenin and A. Alikulov. Joint public diplomacy projects in the framework of Uzbek-Russian (with artists of St. Petersburg) and Uzbek-American (with artists from Washington DC) creative cooperation facilitated the establishment of contacts and organization of private expositions.

Exhibitions held during the cultural days of a particular country have become in a way programmatic. These included an exhibition called “Contemporary Applied Art of Japan” held during the Days of Japanese Culture in Uzbekistan (October, CCA) and an exhibition of works by Egyptian artists scheduled to mark the 10th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Uzbekistan and the Arab Republic of Egypt. An exhibition of works by artists from South-Kazakhstan region (December 2002, CCA) was dedicated to the 10th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Uzbekistan and the Republic of Kazakhstan, and a number of others.

At the present stage of exhibition activity the expositions related to cultural studies become relevant. These include an exhibition called “A Road to Samarqand: Central Asia in the Lenses of the 19th and Early 20th Centuries Travelers” (June 2002, CCA) organized with support from the French Institute for Central Asian Studies in Tashkent, the Swiss Foundation for Cultural Development, the Hellenism and Eastern Civilizations Academic Group at the National Centre for Academic Research of France, the CCA and the THP.

The contemporary stage of social development has made politics- and history-related exhibitions relevant, too. For instance, such was an exhibition of photographs held in April 2002 at the CCA. Materials were provided by the Education and Cultural Programs Section of the US State Department and the Museum of New York under the title “After September 11: Evidence from the Epicentre of Tragedy”. Certain political leitmotif was also present in a photo exhibition dedicated to the International Refugee Day – the day of hope and support for refugees worldwide (June 2002, CEH). At the Centre of Contemporary Art the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) in Uzbekistan held the second annual national contest of posters with the subject being Poverty, Population and Development. The purpose of the contest is to actively engage the general public of Uzbekistan in addressing the issues of poverty reduction and enhancement of the quality of people’s life worldwide.

The International Day of Countering Drug Use and Drug Trafficking was marked by the opening of a poster exhibition “We Choose Life” (June 2002, CCA). The organizers were the UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention in Central Asia, the World Health Organization, the British Council and the AAU.

In September 2003 the CCA housed a photo exhibition titled “Uzbekistan – Scotland: the World as Seen by Lord George Robertson”. George Robertson, NATO Secretary General, arrived on an official visit. The exposition included 50 works, many of which were dedicated to the ancient cities of Uzbekistan – Bukhara and Samarqand.

The contemporary stage in the development of market-based relations is hard to imagine without the involvement of artistic values into the orbit of the market. In the process a special place is taken by marketing and advertisement exhibitions, for example, international exhibitions “Yuveliria 2001″ and “Yuveliria 2002″ (April, CEH) organized by the AAU, the NGO “Zargarlar”, The Jewellers Confederation of the Commonwealth [CIS] and the Jewellers Guild of Russia with the support from the State Assay Chamber under the Committee for Precious Metals and Gems of the Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Uzbekistan. The exhibition, in which the representatives of 14 countries took part, demonstrated the creative potential of jewellers from different countries and facilitated the signature of contracts and agreements.

The prospects of exhibition activity involves the expansion and deepening of the established artistic contacts with embassies, foreign organizations, cultural centres, and the introduction to the art of countries that have not yet been presented to the Uzbek audience. An important issue that needs to be addressed is the engagement of a broader audience, especially young people, into exhibition events, their announcement and advertisement. Along with the realization of true values of the national spiritual culture, the broadening of established notions and the rejection of habitual stereotypes with regard to global art strengthen the idea of multiculturalism, develop planet-wide consciousness and enable one to really feel oneself as a person living in the 21st century, the century of dialogue between cultures, countries and continents.

  1. Author’s interview with Anne Cahen-Delhaye.
  2. М.Драгичевич-Шешич, Б.Стойкович. Культура. Менеджмент, анимация, маркетинг. Новосибирск, 2000, с. 159.

Kamola Akilova

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