The Union of Artists


Our host Tamara introduced us to the artists affiliated with the Union of Artists, mostly in their late fifties and sixties. Although previously part of the elite intelligentsia, the artists that we met during our project seemed to have been pushed to the margins of society by the changes of the last couple of decades. Accustomed to a different regime of art-making where the Soviet state commissioned and remunerated for their paintings and sculptures, these artists now struggled to make their living. The state no longer allocated funds for cultural production, so artists were left on their own to survive. Many had to quit art-making altogether and earn by providing taxi-service or selling and buying in a bazaar. The artists that we met at the Union of Artists made money through various projects such as hand-painting advertisement signs, carving grave stone monuments, or making portraits of the new local businessmen.

The Union of Artists is an organization developed during the Soviet Union. It facilitated the relationship between the socialist state and artists. Through their membership in the Union, artists received studios, apartments, supplies, and even commissions. In Osh, there was a large compound that combined a large exhibition hall with a series of studios behind it. The exhibition hall displayed a number of Soviet-era paintings, produced in the genre of socialist realism. As the artists giving us the tour of the building explained, “This is part of our history too, so we have to preserve and remember it.”

The studios of artists were located behind the exhibition hall. The courtyard that conjoined the studios was empty and overgrown with grapevines. Later, we saw a group of several men working on a stone bust.

We stepped into a couple of studios. Dyadya Lenya was an older Russian artist, who turned out to be a master portraitist.

Day 5 and 6 041

In a conversation, he told us about his love for traveling. He customarily brings along his art supplies and makes “plein-air” sketches.

Nusurat Kambarov, who later contributed to our project, told us a story about this portrait of Lenin that hung in his studio.

What happened to Lenin’s chin ?


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