Exhibition — 13 Nov 1997 until 24 Jan 1998
79 works on paper by the Russian artist Kazimir Malevich that belong to the Khardzhiev-Chaga collection. None of these works has ever before been seen by the public.
The collection of works on paper is comprised of drawings in pencil, chalk, gouache, ink and watercolours, including a sketchbook of 22 loose pages, and two lithographs. The pages of the sketchbook are framed in such a way that the sketches on both sides of the page can be seen. The works cover almost the whole of Malevich's creative period: the earliest works come from his symbolist period (circa 1907-8), the last were made around 1930.
A number of the drawings contain clear references to well-known paintings by Malevich, including some found in the collection of the Stedelijk Museum. Others - particularly those on the pages of the sketchbook - show possible designs for paintings that are not known, or perhaps were never made. A third group must be considered as self-standing drawings, and as such are unique.
Nikolai Ivanovich Khardzhiev (1903-1996) was the first scholar who, in the late 1920s and early 1930s, began to write the history of the Russian avant-garde at the beginning of this century. He had contacts with the leading lights of the movement itself, among them Malevich, but he was also personally acquainted with Matiushin and Kruchenykh (who together with Malevich created the famous opera Victory over the Sun (1913), artists like Filonov, Tatlin and Larionov, and writers like Akhmatova, Mandelstam and Kharms. In the course of the years Khardzhiev built up an extensive archive of correspondence with and documentation about the artists of the Russian avant-garde, as well as a collection of artworks.
In 1993 Khardzhiev and his wife Lidia Chaga emigrated to The Netherlands, taking along the artworks from his collection. The largest part of his archive remained behind in Moscow. The existence of this collection of artworks had been known for years, but almost no one knew precisely what it contained. In principle, Khardzhiev allowed no one to see the collection. After his death in 1996 responsibility for the collection was assumed by the Khardzhiev-Chaga Art Foundation, which has among its goals making the works accessible to the public.
Malevich's works are being shown in relationship to items from the Stedelijk's own collection. Rudi Fuchs makes a connection between Malevich and works from a younger generation of artists like Jannis Kounellis, Donald Judd and Arnulf Rainer. Here, Malevich, as a passionate mystic visionary, is the connecting link with the work of Rainer and Kounellis, and as a pioneer of abstract art, with Judd's work.
Kazimir Malevich (1878-1935) was one of the founders of abstract art. Since 1958, the Stedelijk Museum has held the largest collection of Malevich's work - primarily paintings - in the West.
A Stedelijk Museum Cahier in which all of the works on paper from the Khardzhiev collection are illustrated is being published to accompany this exhibition. Introduction: Geurt Imanse; catalogue of all works on paper: Frits Keers, Frank van Lamoen;
design: Walter Nikkels. Dutch/English. Publisher: Stedelijk Museum, 1997.