Leningrad Underground: Unofficial Artists of the Soviet Era

Collection of Inna and Ruvim Braude

This exhibition brings together a selection of sixty-four Soviet-era works from a less explored corner of the Soviet-era netherworld – Leningrad’s unofficial art scene. Drawn from the Ruvim and Inna Braude collection, the show features fifteen artists – including some of the movement’s most renowned – Alexander Arefiev, Alek Rapoport, Yevgeny Abeshaus, Alexander Gurevich, Alexander Manusov, Evgeny Ukhnalev, and others.

This exhibition allows a glimpse into the reclusive world of Leningrad‘s unofficial art – a microcosm of free thought and artistic experimentation amidst the heavily censored Soviet universe of constraints and taboos. Challenging the official, and highly restrictive framework for creativity, unofficial artists claimed the right to unconditional self-expression. Freedom came with a price: dissenters were denied access to public exposure and cultural infrastructure. Obstacles notwithstanding, nonconformist artists pursued their individual choices with passion and resolve, sharing their discoveries with a close-knit circle of friends and supporters.  

The exhibition unfolds a story of Leningrad’s clandestine art communities. The Arefiev Circle was the earliest unofficial art group in the post-WWII Soviet Union, active in the late 1940s-1950s. The Aleph (1975-77) was the only association of Jewish artists whose mission was to preserve and artistically interpret Jewish culture and history amidst the insidious antisemitism of the late Soviet epoch. Established in 1981, the Association for Experimental Visual Art organized groundbreaking exhibitions and contributed to the emergence of the famous Pushkinskaya 10, Russia’s oldest independent art center opened in Leningrad in 1989.

The Museum thanks the Braude family for sharing these works with the Minnesota public and for their perceptive and discerning judgment exercised in the creation of this collection.

July 22 – October 22, 2023

Main Gallery

Alexander Gurevich<br>
Agrippa Street, 1990, oil on canvas, 40 x 47 in<br>
Collection of Inna and Ruvim Braude

Alexander Gurevich
Agrippa Street, 1990
Oil on canvas, 40″ x 47″
Collection of Inna and Ruvim Braude

Yevgeny Ukhnalev <br>
This is Mine, 1989, oil on canvas, 63x46<br>
Collection of Inna and Ruvim Braude

Yevgeny Ukhnalev
This is Mine, 1989
Oil on canvas, 63″ x 46″
Collection of Inna and Ruvim Braude

Alek Rapoport<br>
Self-portrait, 1950-55<br>
Oil on canvas, 19x15<br>
Collection of Inna and Ruvim Braude

Alek Rapoport
Self-portrait, 1950-55
Oil on canvas, 19″ x 15″
Collection of Inna and Ruvim Braude