Critics’ Picks

Vyacheslav Akhunov, “Abandoned Pedestals (The Empty Pedestals Intended for Monuments of Leaders)” (detail), 1978, pencil on paper, dimensions variable.

Vyacheslav Akhunov, “Abandoned Pedestals (The Empty Pedestals Intended for Monuments of Leaders)” (detail), 1978, pencil on paper, dimensions variable.

Bologna

“The Empty Pedestal. Ghosts from Eastern Europe”

Museo Civico Archeologico
Via dell’Archiginnasio 2
January 24–March 16, 2014

Hosted by Bologna Arte Fiera, the annual festival of contemporary art, this exhibition of work from the former Eastern Bloc is partially an homage to the Italian art collections that provided all of the pieces on view, most of which were made after 1989. (It should be noted that while the selection criterion might seem limited, private collections in Italy are often more extensive than public ones.) The impressive list of forty-five artists spans at least three generations and ranges from the Kabakovs to Kateřina Šedá, from Július Koller to Roman Ondák, and from Yona Friedman to Victor Man. Curator Marco Scotini examines their works in light of a dialectic between past and present, interpreted through the two terms in the show’s title: the pedestal—the stage on which symbols of power succeed one another, from statues of Lenin to those of national heroes of the republics that emerged from the ashes of the USSR—and the ghost, understood as the revenant of a need for freedom and justice which, far from having been mollified by a half century of authoritarian socialism (and by twenty years of neoliberal capitalism administered by rapacious elites), continues to appear.

Scotini has also organized the exhibition into three sections: an introduction, “The Theater of Gestures”—which focuses on the body, in private and social dimensions—and “Archaeology of Things,” which primarily examines the dimension of memory, individual and collective, and its representation. Still, in spite of this smart partition, visitors may be confused here by the lack of adequate descriptive materials. For instance, if all the works were provided with introductory texts such as the ones that accompany two or three key works—as with the drawings from Vyacheslav Akhunov’s series “Abandoned Pedestals (The Empty Pedestals Intended for Monuments of Leaders),” 1978—the exhibition would be much more accessible. However, given the quantity and the quality of the works, this remains one of the most important exhibitions to be held in Italy on the art of post-Soviet Europe.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.