MOSCOW — An unprecedented exhibition opened in Moscow Friday of nude prints with scrawled comments apparently written by former Soviet leader Joseph Stalin that make ribald references to his party comrades.
Titled “Messages from the Great Leader: Stalin’s Autographs,” the week-long exhibition shows prints of 19th- and 20th-century art works that Stalin is said to have defaced with messages in coloured pencil.
“Ginger b..(expletive) Radek, if he hadn’t p..(expletive) against the wind, if he hadn’t been angry, he would be alive,” he wrote across the leg of a weighty male nude.
The macabre comment was an apparent reference to Karl Radek, the former head of the international communist organisation, the Comintern, believed to have been shot dead by Stalin’s secret police in 1939.
Should I be concerned about the predilection for nudes that dictators seems to have? or that so many have artistic bents to them? I think that there is something in artists, a need to control, that we express through our art. we create our worlds, we own them, they are formed exactly how we want them to be and we become passionate about controlling the precise aspects of them. for some, perhaps, art wasn’t enough.
I find it interesting that both Stalin and Hitler were both very talented. I can’t help but wonder what might have happened if they had thrown themselves more into their art instead of tyranny. but perhaps, again, artists tend to walk a fine line between insanity and reality. perhaps one too many rejections sent them over the edge.
More disturbing to me about this exhibition are the comments, they show the mind of a sociopath. added 30 years after the works were created you have to wonder what was going through his mind. there is an implication in the comments, also, that often the models were well known to Stalin. was this a nude of Radek?
Some reports on the exhibition have suggested that Stalin had homosexual leanings, as most of the drawings are of nude men, and the commentator twice makes jokes about masturbation.
“Stalin and naked guys: what was between them?” a story was headlined in daily Komsomolskaya Pravda.
“We specially showed these works to psychologists. They didn’t find any expressions of homosexuality, although this material of course does prompt you to have this thought,” Turshatov said.
Personally I don’t see them that way, or think it’s important whether Stalin was homosexual or not. what I do see are the puerile nature of the comments which lead me to think that he had a very juvenile turn of mind.
I’ve written previously on the subject of whether the acts of the artist should count when viewing the work. I think in this example the acts of the artist has to count because he has made it part of the art. by defacing his own pieces with comments he brings his acts to the forefront of people’s minds. it is impossible to divorce Joseph Stalin the dictator from Joseph Stalin the artist in this case.