At the time of the much-talked-about exhibition opening I was selflessly labouring on what the day after would become an auction of Russian art, which, however didn’t prevent myself from absorbing a great amount of anticipation and gossip. An artist best friend of mine (i.e. an industry virgin and an innocent contemplator) who managed to sneak an invitation was so dazed by the numbers of guests and cocktails on offer she missed the exposition itself. Hence, especially for her, to cover up for all this distractive socialising, I embarked on the below.
The Post Pop: East Meets West colloquially known as “the Russian exhibition” apart from attracting an art-loving Chelsea-strolling crowd, also lures culture pilgrims from the East, as my precious mother-tongue is heard around the place. This is partially due to the man behind the show and this time it is not solely Mr Saatchi. The show is a second venture of a businessman and a collector Igor Tsukanov, the first being a renowned Breaking the Ice. A stark contrast to an ill-fated oligarch, Mr Tsukanov represents the best and the rarest of the new generation of Russian elite. He is a patron of the artists and a family man, his nonchalant persona is usually seen at private views and receptions politely making himself acquainted with young and unemployed admirers like myself.
Enough of the gossip. The idea of the show is to produce a broad overview of pop art legacy across consumerist monsters represented by USA and UK alongside the newcomers in the field - young and weird capitalist states of China and Russia. As Jeff Koons meets Komar and Melamid, we are witnessing an unprecedented co-presence of masters of kitsch and voices of dissident generations.
The show is split into thematic sections, each of these presenting one of the fundamental reference sources for post-pop. As its prefix presupposes renovation, post-pop redefines good-old Andy Warhol etc. and consciously or not, takes materialism and idolisation into new directions. Mass Media, Advertising and Consumerism and Sex and the Body rooms make it almost impossible to distinguish a Chinese artist from an American, as the heavy and crude semiotics of its subjects appear to be universal. Being surrounded by mock advertising campaigns, slot machines, phallic symbols and celebrity figures in a very literal sense, I ended up feeling bombarded. Which, I guess, entirely fulfils a purpose of the works and is made even worse by their profusion.
I would recommend slowing your path in the rooms titled Habitat and Ideology and Religion, as they pleasantly assist in comprehending that prefix. Masters of paraphernalia Ilya and Emilia Kabakov take us away from a pop-art classic Lichtenstein’s studio into a drastically different domestic realia of a Soviet communal apartment. Through their installation titled Incident in the Corridor near the Kitchen they celebrate the absurdity of the shared space through their beloved metaphor of a flying object. Saucepans and pots are at the centre stage of byt and conflict, by revolving around in impressive numbers they take a witness of the incident above the routine, to where it is best observed and defied.
However filled with over-reproduced variations on the subject of a charismatic leader, Ideology and Religion rooms surprise with a refreshingly shocking installation by Sergey Sokov. The noise it makes destructed me from observing a socialist take on Bosch’s triptychs by Liu Dahong and what I saw scared my media-influenced self to a quiet scream. What first appears as a performance, comprises numerous entirely clothed mechanical figures kneeled down in religious prayers. They hardly face the direction of Mecca, but a wall of empty icons of brown bread (the one you cannot buy in the UK) by Anatoly Osmolovsky.
Horror gives way to wit and wit gets lost on the way to something horrible. The Post Pop show is overwhelming and hugely entertaining. My personal attention was won by a bunch of Soviet non-conformists, perhaps because I was biased and therefore more receptive to their art. Hopefully the meeting of East and West will go smoothly and the British public will succeed in making sense of this extraordinary layer of Chinese and Russian cultures, specially as they were making an attempt to speak the Western language of pop.