Famed art is ‘at risk’ af­ter Uzbek mu­seum head fired

The China Post - - ARTS -

A world-renowned col­lec­tion of avant-garde Rus­sian art housed in a re­mote mu­seum in Uzbek­istan may be at risk af­ter the di­rec­tor was abruptly fired on al­legedly trumped-up charges of theft, staff say.

The alarm was raised by staff work­ing at the Sav­it­sky Karakalpkstan Mu­seum who claim the di­rec­tor, Marinika Ba­banazarova, was forced to re­sign over al­le­ga­tions she had stolen works of art.

But the staff in­sist that noth­ing has been stolen from the staterun mu­seum, which is lo­cated in the re­mote city of Nukus some 800 kilo­me­ters north of Tashkent and houses more than 50,000 pieces of Soviet-era avant-garde art.

They claim the move to oust Ba­banazarova, which has not been con­firmed by the Uzbek author­i­ties, is part of a ploy by of­fi­cials to seize con­trol of its valu­able col­lec­tion which has won world renown.

Among the artists in­cluded in the col­lec­tion are the fa­mous cubo­fu­tur­ist and supre­ma­tist Lyubov Popova, and other cel­e­brated avant-garde pain­ters from the first half of the 20th cen­tury such as Alexan­der Shevchenko and Robert Falk.

Staff say her fir­ing was “illegal” sign­ing an open let­ter of protest that was posted on Face­book which al­leges Ba­banazarova was forced out and flatly deny­ing al­le­ga­tions that she had stolen works from the col­lec­tion.

They said the al­le­ga­tions had been laid out in an anony­mous let­ter pub­lished by the Uzbek media.

And they in­sisted the col­lec­tion was un­touched.

“The whole col­lec­tion and safe,” the let­ter said.

“It seems there are peo­ple for whom it is prof­itable to shame the good name of the di­rec­tor of the mu­seum and her staff, now that the col­lec­tion of the Sav­it­sky mu­seum has ob­tained world­wide fame,” the staff wrote, de­mand­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the cul­ture min­istry.

The mu­seum’s founder, Rus­sian artist Igor Sav­it­sky, set­tled in Uzbek­istan in the 1950s and be­gan amass­ing works of art that ran con­trary to state-en­dorsed So­cial­ist Re­al­ist art, largely us­ing funds from the lo­cal author­i­ties.

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