TABLE OF CONTENTS

Russia’s Underground Art Market

YOU LEAVE YOUR HOTEL for a visit to the Kremlin armory. Ten steps down the sidewalk a young Muscovite picks you up.

“You like icons?” he asks in a ludicrous parody of the classic “feelthy pictures” ploy. Anything close to an affirmative grunt and you’re on your way to a grubby apartment. There you’ll see icons, mostly from the nineteenth century but some earlier. All expensive. Prices have soared in the past two years since I was last in Russia. Noticing your cool, and not knowing that you’ve practiced it in flea markets for a decade, your host changes the subject.

“Listen,” he says, “Maybe you like modern art instead . . . Malevich, Lissitzky?”

“Sure,” you reply.

“Well, I’ve got a friend. . . .” And you are off.

You have made contact with one of the Soviet Union’s newer and better organized industries. But only with its export branch. There’s also a big domestic trade. In fact, the

Sign-in to keep reading

Artforum print subscribers have full access to this article. If you are a subscriber, sign in below.

Not registered for artforum.com? Register here.

SUBSCRIBE NOW for only $50 a year—65% off the newsstand price—and get the print magazine plus full online access to this issue and our archive.*

Order the ONLINE EDITION for $5.99.

* This rate applies to U.S. domestic subscriptions.