Exhibition Lifts Curtain Of Silence On Life In Soviet Uzbekistan
Photographs of a hidden revolution revealed in UK for first time

2 November 2006, London: Over 200 photographs by Max Penson (1893-1959) documenting the radical transformation of Uzbekistan from a highly traditional feudal society into a modern Soviet republic taken between 1920 and 1940 will be exhibited for the first time in the UK, at the Gilbert Collection, Somerset House.

Public Exhibition: 2006 - 24 February 2007
Opening Hours: 29 November 2006 - 24 February 2007
Press Preview: 28 November, 10am - 2pm. Olga Sviblova, curator, will give a tour of the exhibition at 11am

The exhibition is staged by the Moscow House of Photography (www.mdf.ru) and curated by Olga Sviblova, one of Russia's leading arts specialists. Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich has sponsored the exhibition catalogue.

The exhibition forms the photography element of the 2006 Russian ACT festival (www.russianact.co.uk), a major celebration and showcase of Russian culture taking place at venues across London from 4 October to 2 December. The festival includes orchestral music, theatre, jazz, and two dance events; one featuring Igor Zelensky and Darcy Bussell and the other bringing contemporary dancers Diana Husein and Anna Abalihina to London for the first time. [Full festival details in notes to editors].

The 20th-century history of Central Asian countries like Uzbekistan had remained largely hidden until the collapse of communism during the early 1990s. Penson's archive contains roughly 30,000 images taken while he worked as a photographer for Central Asia's largest newspaper, Pravda Vostoka (Truth of the East), from 1926 until 1949. But, accused of being influenced by the West, he fell from official favour and in 1948 rising anti-Semitism forced him to leave his job after 25 years of working at the paper.

Penson's photographs document the sweeping social transformation that happened during this period, as well as showing an awareness of the Modernist aesthetic being explored by artists throughout Europe. Many of the images are clearly underpinned by a socialist, propagandist agenda and show an idealisation of life under Soviet rule. However, Penson also sought out his own subjects. In 1937 Penson took part in the World Exhibition in Paris winning the Grand Prix for Uzbek Madonna, a portrait of a young woman, unveiled and publicly nursing her child.

Some images depict women in traditional horsehair veils while in others they wear trousers and drive tractors, previously unheard-of tasks for women in this part of the world. Men are shown digging vast irrigation canals, attending literacy classes and watching sporting events or theatrical performances.

Max Penson was born in 1893 in the Belorussian village of Velizh, the son of a bookbinder. He studied art in Lithuania, returning to his hometown in 1915. The Russian pogroms forced him to flee to Kokand in Uzbekistan not long after, where he found employment as an art teacher. The gift of a camera in 1921 changed his life, and from then on he gave up painting, moved to Tashkent and began working as a professional photographer. He died in 1959 as a result of depression and illness.

Olga Sviblova, curator and director of Moscow House of Photography,
said: "Working independently and without teachers, he attained the summits of photographic art. His work deserves to be considered alongside other Russian masters such as Grindberg Zelma and Rodchenko. His work provides an insight into the transformation of a society, hidden and largely unreported during the time of change; it is a stirring story. This is the first time these images have been exhibited in the UK and form the photographic element of the 2006 Russian ACT festival."

Max Penson
is the second exhibition to be curated by Olga Sviblova at the Gilbert Collection. The first, Quiet Resistance: Russian Pictorial Photography, 1900-1930s, was highly acclaimed and proved so popular it was extended for two months.

The exhibition runs alongside the Gilbert Collection's current exhibition, Britannia and Muscovy: English Silver at the Court of the Tsars; fine royal Tudor and Stuart silver preserved in the Kremlin since its arrival in Russia over 300 years ago. Works of art from the Russian Court and Church, including gold, silver and bejewelled objects used for ceremonies, are also on display.

The Max Penson exhibition coincides with auctions of Russian art at:

 Sotheby's, New Bond Street, London on 28 November
 Christie's, King Street, London on 29 November


Press preview:
28 November 10 am to 2 pm, exhibition tour at 11 am

Invitations will be sent out at the beginning of November. If you would like to attend the preview/ receive an invitation please contact Anna Cusden or Will Kallaway at Kallaway on 020 7221 7883.

Further information and images

Anna Cusden
020 7221 7883

Will Kallaway
020 7221 7883

High resolution images can be downloaded from: http://www.kallaway.co.uk/russian-act-picture-library.asp

ABOUT RUSSIAN ACT (http://www.russianact.co.uk/)
Russian ACT is an international festival that showcases Russia's rich and diverse culture at venues across the world. This year Russian ACT takes place in Singapore and London. Compelling programmes are put together by Russia's newest cultural leaders, while concerts and exhibitions provide an opportunity to experience Russia's past masters.

Russian ACT in London (October 2 - December 4, 2006).
Russian ACT has been run in London for three years, providing an insight into the arts and culture of a country that has largely baffled the British. Churchill referred to Russia as a 'riddle wrapped inside an enigma'.

Artists taking part at events across London include Igor Zelensky and Darcy Bussell, exploring what happens when two great ballet traditions meet; violin virtuoso, Gidon Kremer with Kremerata Baltica; Maxim Shostakovich, revisits his father's 15th symphony; Max Penson's photographic chronicles of the massive social changes in central Asia are displayed for the first time; Diana Husein and Anna Albalihina, two rising stars of Russian modern dance; Sergei Leiferkus returns to his St Petersburg roots with a tribute to Shostakovich; Dmirty Krymov and the School of Dramatic Art, bring images to life and turn people into puppets; the Moscow Composers Orchestra rift with Russian Folk.

Russian ACT is organised by: marka:face:fashion and supported by the
Russian Federal Agency for Culture and Cinematography, Alfa Bank and Ural Sib.

Upcoming Russian ACT events in London:

Moscow Composers Orchestra
CARGO, 83 Rivington Street, Shoreditch, 14 November, 8pm

Presented in association with the London Jazz Festival
Led by Vladimir Miller, a British pianist and composer born to a Russian émigré family in Chile, the Moscow Composers Orchestra brings together celebrated musicians - including bassist Vladimir Volkov and trumpeter Slava Gayvoronsky - whose roots are in Russia but whose careers span continents. The Moscow Composers Orchestra offers fascinating musical innovations from the border where two cultures collide, taking harmonies from the West and interlacing them with variations of Russian folk. Combining original concert programming with electronica, academic music, jazz and world music, the Centre occupies a unique niche in Moscow's rich cultural landscape.

TICKETS: £12.50. Book online at www.cargo-london.com or call Tickets and Information on 020 7749 7840. See also www.londonjazzfestival.com

The School of Dramatic Art
Riverside Studios, Crisp Road, London, W6
24 - 27 November, 7.45 p.m.

Presented in association with FEEAST
The laboratory space that is Moscow's School of Dramatic Art arrives in London to tell two new and very strange dramatic tales. In Donky Khot, a wordplay on Cervantes' supernovel, director Dmitry Krymov brings to life a nostalgia for a world culture. What results is a theatre in which reality is as changeable as in cartoons, where drawn images come alive and where people turn into puppets. Not a Fairy Tale is a collage of Russia's favourite stories turned on their head: Red Riding Hood beaten to death by hungry urchins; the Frog Princess fried up for dinner, and the villainous dragon Gorynich becoming an innocent victim. This highly original piece was recently recognised with a nomination for innovation at the Russian Golden Mask awards.

TICKETS: £19 (£14 concs). Book online at www.riversidestudios.co.uk or call Tickets and Information on 020 8237 1111. See also www.feeast.com

Igor Zelensky and Darcy Bussell
Sadler's Wells Theatre
28 November - 2 December, 7:30pm.

Darcy Bussell, the prima ballerina and the principle guest soloist of the Royal Ballet, Covent Garden join forces with Igor Zelensky to create a spectacle of dance at Sadler's Wells. Internationally acclaimed Igor Zelensky, one of the worlds most accomplished ballet dancers, is a principle of the Mariinksky Theatre in St. Peterburg. Darcy Bussell has been the Royal Ballet's prima ballerina for almost two decades. Joined by colleagues from the Bolshoi, Mariinsky and Royal Ballet companies Bussell and Zelensky will present a special programme of work by George Balanchine and Roland Petit accompanied by modern choreography from Alistair Marriott and Alla Sigalova. Russian ACT showcases the collaborative possibility of the marriage of these two schools.

TICKETS: £13-£40. Book online at www.sadlerswells.com or call Tickets and Information on 0870 737 7737

Dina Husein and Anna Abalihina
In the Place of my Dream
The Place, 17 Duke's Road, WC1
1- 2 December, 7.30 p.m.

Graduates of both the Moscow Choreographical Lyceum and the Rotterdam Dance Academy, Dina Husein and Anna Abalihina, have pioneered a unique fusion of classical and contemporary dance, of Russian and western European styles. After several years spent dancing in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, the duo are now based in Moscow, where they regularly collaborate with leading Russian and foreign choreographers, and always evoke huge interest from both critics and the public when they perform. Russian ACT bring to London a highly acclaimed new piece, In the Place of my Dream, created with the support of the Nations State Theatre. Set to music by Richardas Norvilla, and making inspired use of animations and video effects, their work explores the deepest reaches of human emotions and creates a surreal world which sucks the audience into the dancers' dreams and fantasies.
TICKETS: £5-£15. Book online at www.theplace.org.uk or call Tickets and Information on 020 7387 0031

Gilbert Collection, Somerset House.

The Gilbert Collection of decorative arts is one of the most important gifts ever made to the British nation and was received by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother on 25 May 2000. The collection comprises some 800 works of art and was formed over the past 40 years by Sir Arthur Gilbert, who was born in London in 1913 and moved to California in 1949 where he lived until his death on 2 September 2001. Magnificent European silver, spectacular gold snuffboxes and remarkable Italian mosaics occupy galleries in the Embankment and South Buildings of Somerset House, designed by Sir William Chambers (1723-1796).

For further information about the Gilbert Collection please contact Sue Bond, 01359 271085 or info@suebond.co.uk





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