The history of the Karakalpakstan Art Museum and its works

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The Karakalpakstan Art Museum is a legendary place that proved to be a true bastion of Russian and Uzbek culture when it was severely tested by Communism; still today it is second only to the St. Petersburg Museum for works and value

Igor Savitsky, who gave life to the museum

The history of the Karakalpakstan Museum of Art, second only to the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg for the number of Russian avant-garde works, almost entirely links its history to its legendary founder Igor Savitsky, one of the true heroes of art history modern. The latter was born in Kiev in 1915 to a family of Russian scholars and lawyers, which, if on the one hand it will facilitate his interest in art, on the other he was seen very badly with the arrival of communism, which forced the family to go to Moscow and appear as “proletarian” as possible. Thanks to his studies of him, in 1942 he was sent to Central Asia and then to Samarkand, a place that, despite the war, greatly affected the young Igor, laying the foundations for his return in 1950 following an archaeological expedition in Karakalpakstan. This journey will prove to be fundamental and will mark his definitive transfer to this region, a territory that he made immediately on a human and cultural level, prompting him to paint several paintings and to accumulate as many local artifacts as possible to be sent to the museums of Moscow and St. Petersburg. . During this period he also managed to put more and more pressure on the government of Karakalpakstan to build a real art museum, which was finally opened in 1966 and of which he was appointed director.


In addition to participating in more and more archaeological excavations in Khwarazm and to be the initiator of many of them, his great importance was due to his desire to make known more and more the new Russian and Uzbek artists linked to history of Uzbekistan, which immediately made the museum one of the most particular in the entire Soviet Union. Frightened by the communist policies towards culture, however, he began to search for all the works of Russian artists of the time, using public money to have works sent from every corner of Russia that would otherwise have been destroyed or lost, thus transforming the his museum of Nukus a real cultural bastion of the desert. When Communist policies changed, Savitsky was finally recognized for his merits, managing to exhibit his countless works even in Moscow and with the patronage of the Soviet Ministry of Culture. Unfortunately, his intense work cost him his health and during one of these exhibitions he was hospitalized in Moscow, where he died in 1984; according to his wishes, however, he was buried in Nukus, in Karakalpakstan, city where he left his heart. With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the incredible value of its collection was also recognized by foreign art critics, who still evaluate it as one of the best museums in the world of Russian and Uzbek art. To date, the museum should have around 90,000 works and the film “The Desert of Forbidden Art” was also dedicated to him, in which even Ben Kingsley participated.

Some artists present in the museum

Igor Savitsky

Museo Karakalpakstan
Street in old Khiva

Aleksey Isupov

Museo Karakalpakstan
Tea-house. 1914-1921.

Victor Ufimtsev

Museo Karakalpakstan
To The Train 1927

Ural Tansykbayev

Museo Karakalpakstan
Crimson Autumn. 1931

Robert Falk

Museo Karakalpakstan
Suzani Background. 1943.

Mikhail Kurzin

Museo Karakalpakstan

Alexander Volkov

Museo Karakalpakstan
Arba. (cart) 1924

Nikolay Ulyanov

Museo Karakalpakstan
Samarkand. Evening. Ulugbek madrasah. 1943.

Galiya Abdurakhmanova

Museo Karakalpakstan
In the Yurt. 1979

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