Selections from the Claude and Nina Gruen Collection of Contemporary Art

Many-Headed Person with Fork by Oleg Tselkov
Feb 10, 2009 - Jun 28, 2009
Dodge Wing Lower Level

This exhibition celebrates the major gift of contemporary Russian art to the Zimmerli Art Museum by California-based collectors Claude and Nina Gruen. The Gruen Collection, comprising approximately 160 works by leading Russian contemporary artists, is an invaluable addition to the Zimmerli’s holdings of traditional Russian art, donated by George Riabov, and the world’s largest collection of Soviet nonconformist art, assembled by Norton T. Dodge.

The Gruen holdings reflect art strategies employed by Russian artists from cultural stagnation under Brezhnev to Gorbachev's perestroika and beyond. The majority of the items in the collection date from the late 1980s to 1990s, but it also includes a few works from the 1930s and 1940s inspired by the Russian avant-garde and early nonconformist pieces from the 1950s through 1970s. The core works by the nonconformist artists, produced after the collapse of the Soviet Union, continue to dwell upon Soviet experiences while uniting them with the realities of the new post-Soviet economy. The younger generation of artists that emerged around 2000 often ignores the Soviet episode altogether, wheeling and dealing in the glamour of the new Russian capitalism. 

As the fruit of individual reason and desire, intellectual analysis and spontaneous affection, the Gruen Collection relates the story of modern Russian art from a particular viewpoint; there are preferences and avoidances, favorites and omissions, celebrities and unfamiliar names. Nevertheless, there is a consistency in the collection that emphasizes the interchangeability of various concepts within Russian contemporary art. The Gruen contribution extends the Zimmerli’s holdings of Russian art to the present day, displays a broad spectrum of art paradigms, and creates a solid base at the museum for further research and exploration. 

Organized by Julia Tulovsky, Assistant Curator of Russian and Soviet Nonconformist Art

Oleg Tselkov
Many-Headed Person with Fork, 1983
Oil on canvas
Collection Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers
Claude and Nina Gruen Collection of Contemporary Russian Art