Unknown to Western civilization for nearly 30 years, the Savitsky collection — 44,000 Russian avant-garde artworks, many of which were once banned by Joseph Stalin — have been gaining attention since the early 1990s, when Uzbekistan became independent, and Nukus, a city in the west of the republic that was formerly a biological warfare test site, became more accessible by air.
documentary by Amanda Pope and Tchavdar Georgiev, The Desert of Forbidden Art,
traces the life of Igor Savitsky, a painter and an archaeologist. He began his
collection, now housed in the Karakalpak
of Art in Nukus, near the ancient Silk Road, in the late 1960s. The documentary also delves
into the stories of the artists whose work Savitsky collected — members of the
Russian avant-garde, some of whom settled in Uzbekistan after the Russian
revolution of 1917 and fused European modernism and Islamic traditions — and
the tale of the museum, which faces economic hardship and strict surveillance
from Uzbek authorities, who have sharply reduced the collection’s exhibition
space by closing one of two museum buildings.
of the Savitsky Collection is far from secure,” Pope warned. Georgiev added,
“We hope the film will function as an advocacy tool and a catalyst to protect
this unique 20th-century cultural institution.”
MIR Corp, a Seattle-based company that
specializes in travel to Russia and neighbouring countries, is offering a
variety of itineraries
to the Karakalpak Museum of Art, developed with the help of Pope and
Georgiev and ranging in price from $3,095 to $7,195, not including flights. Travellers
can visit the museum while on a small group tour to central Asia; a visit can
also be arranged as an extension of MIR’s various Silk Road itineraries.
MIR also can customize a private trip to Uzbekistan,
or an itinerary featuring all of the five, now independent “stans” of the
former USSR: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan,
Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. According to an MIR spokeswoman,
the best months to visit Nukus are mid-August through the end of November, and
from March until mid-June.