Grand Exhibitions of the 2010s in Russia: Affirming the National Project Through Realist Art


Since the early 2010s, large exhibitions of Russian realist art have enjoyed significant, nationwide success. This article explores the concept of Russian realism, relating it to the concept of culture as heritage, actively exploited in state rhetoric. The popularity of Russian realism is analyzed in the context of the conservative turn in Russian    art. The analysis relies on curators’ texts, press-releases, comments and feedback  of museum visitors, and articles written by art critics. The article sheds light on the ideological resources of art in its traditional formats and compares the three versions of realist discourse: critical realism of the nineteenth century, socialist realism of the mid-twentieth century and contemporary realism. This work demonstrates that the contemporary discourse of realism appropriates the symbolic capital of the Russian classical heritage by emphasizing the continuity of the realist tradition in contemporary art, which unreflectively uses traditional forms. Thus, realist art provides a way to conceal the clashes and ruptures in Russian national history and to maintain and to invigorate the illusion of national unity.

Keywords: state cultural policy of the Russian Federation, critical realism, socialist realism, Russian art exhibitions in 2015

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