Prometheus Unbound
Early Works by Ernst Neizvestny from the Collection of Svetlana Lovetskaya to be Exhibited at Bonhams

Organized 50 years after the great sculptor's first solo show in London, Prometheus Unbound: Early Works by Ernst Neizvestny from the Collection of Svetlana Lovetskaya will be on display at Bonhams New Bond Street between 24 - 27 November 2019. This will coincide with The Russian Sale on 27 November.

The exhibition will present a body of Neizvestny's rare Soviet period works from the collection of Svetlana Lovetskaya, the widow of Neizvestny's print maker Vladimir Lovetsky. The collection includes more than 300 works on paper as well as sculptural pieces. With many of the works being shown for the first time, the exhibition is a significant event for the study of the life and works of the legendary artist.

Ernst Neizvestny was born in 1925. In 1942, at the age of 17, he joined the Red Army as a volunteer. At the end of the Second World War he was heavily wounded – despite surviving his mother received an official notification of his death, and Neizvestny was awarded the Order of the Red Star "posthumously". His sculptures, often based on the human form, are noted for their expressionism and are frequently as tortured as they are powerful. At the Moscow Manege exhibition of 1962, then First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev, derided Neizvestny's works as "degenerate" and questioned, "Why do you disfigure the faces of Soviet people?". Neizvestny's would later be approached by Khrushchev's family to design Khrushchev's tomb at the Novodevichy Cemetery. Much of Neizvestny's art from the Soviet era was destroyed before he was forcibly exiled to the United States in 1976. Perhaps his most famous surviving work created during the Soviet period is his sculpture Prometheus (1966) in Artek.

In 1965, the Grosvenor Gallery in London opened an exhibition of works by the then unknown young Soviet sculptor Ernst Neizvestny entitled Drawing for Sculpture. The gallery, then run by the famous sociologist, writer and art collector Eric Estorick (1913-1993), showcased works by the most important European artists – including Marc Chagall, René Magritte, Pablo Picasso, El Lissitzky, and Alexander Archipenko. Drawing for Sculpture was the first exhibition of Neizvestny's work ever held outside of the Soviet Union. In an article entitled "Russian Drawings Cut East-West Barriers", The Daily Telegraph reported that Neizvestny graphic works were "overflowing with energy" and revealed an extraordinary artistic talent.

Speaking of his works on paper, Neizvestny claimed; "I use graphic works to develop ideas, but I find real satisfaction in graphic speed, ease and freedom. My drawings are independent and an end in themselves."

Head of Bonhams Russian Art Department Daria Khristova said, "The works Neizvestny created before his emigration are still considered to be of greatest significance and scholarly interest. Many international scholars still agree that it is in Neizvestny's works on paper where the soul of the artist lies. We are honoured to display this highly important collection alongside our Russian Sale on 27 November."


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