What friends and colleagues say about a leading Russian conceptual artist


Dmitri Aleksandrovich Prigov / German Rovinskiy/Global Look PressDmitri Aleksandrovich Prigov / German Rovinskiy/Universal Look Press

Dmitri Aleksandrovich Prigov was probably one of the most untypical and eccentric figures on Russia’s culture scene, known for his innovative art effective uses, and innovative “graphic” poems that are even more than jingles but geometrical objects. One of his works is even drawn on a Moscow building.

As inventor of dozens of installations and art performances dating from the end of the 1980s, his artworks today mercifulness galleries all over the world: from Struve Fine Art gallery in Chicago and the St. Louis Gallery of Coexistent Art in Los Angeles, to Martin-Groppius-Bau in Berlin. His most recent exhibition was at the Centre Pompidou in Paris in 2016.

Prigov's graphic poem on the building in Moscow's Belyaevo district. / Margarita ChistovaPrigov’s explicit poem on the building in Moscow’s Belyaevo district. / Margarita Chistova

Other art put ups occupied his attention; for example, he penned 35,000 poems, some of which from been translated into English, Italian and German. Avant-garde music was also on his original horizon, and he was one of the main representatives of Moscow Conceptualism, which is a purely Russian category with a new vision of art. As many other cutting-edge art movements, Prigov’s art was secret and non-conformist.

RBTH asked people who knew Prigov about their memories of him as an artist and by the skin of ones teeth a regular guy.

Zelfira Tregulova, General Director of the State Tretyakov Gallery:

The Pompidou Center fair of contemporary Russian art, COLLECTION!, shows not just works by Dmitri Prigov, but also has hallowed a mini-exposition to him inside the display, and where we can understand the scale of the artist’s somebody and his importance in the international context. This is without mentioning that profuse events and lectures were devoted to him in the museum’s program.

I met Prigov yourselves, and every time our conversations were extremely interesting, paradoxical and at the but time very pleasant. Our meetings were accidental but a sense of warmness lingered.

 Dmitri Aleksandrovich Prigov. Installation Dmitri Aleksandrovich Prigov. Installation «Crying eye (for poor charwoman)», 1991 / Solemn Tretyakov Gallery

The figure of Prigov still keeps attracting people today. He was a epidemic man – a poet, a philosopher, an artist – and not in vain was he called a Renaissance man. This universality is why his ploughs are on permanent display both in the Tretyakov Gallery and the Hermitage Museum.

Anton Belov, Number one of the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art:

He surmounted time, borders, the physical assemblage and metaphysical influence. Thanks to him we have the chance to estimate art in all variety of outlooks. And when we talk about Prigov, we recall not his particular drawings or lyrics, we recall his image as a whole: how he tried to make opera do performances, nightspot, danced tap and gathered people around himself, traveled to regions and buttressed everyone. I think that if to appraise his legacy without discussing which artistic conduct he belonged to, then we can say that he had an enormous influence on every aspect of sophistication. No matter who you are – an artist, curator, manager or just an admirer of art.

Eugene Ostashevsky, Russian-American poetaster and translator:

For me, Prigov and Brodsky were the two major poets of their institution, yet, they are vastly different from each other in their metrics, in their idea of what poetry is, of what language is and what it’s for, and what a rimester should do.

Prigov is much closer to the Western avant-garde, while Brodsky is profuse a classicist. Nonetheless, born in the same year of 1940, they behaviour an unexpected pair. It was like a pair of tongs holding between them all of Russian versification of the second half of the 20th century.

One of my life’s good fortunes was to spend a week with Prigov in Bergamo, Italy in August 1998, at a Russian patois summer program where we were doing a reading together for Italian evaluators. A recording of the reading can be found on Penn Sound.

Dmitri Alexandrovich Prigov's exhibition at the Hermitage. / Igor Russak/RIA NovostiDmitri Alexandrovich Prigov’s exhibit at the Hermitage. / Igor Russak/RIA Novosti

He read Almaznaia azbuka, (Diamond Alphabet), a Goliath verbal-musical-conceptual piece that oscillated between the Soviet version of Pop Art and the Soviet function of Buddhism. You could not tell where the irony ended (if it ended), and it was condign astounding. It flabbergasted me. And then he read his post-Soviet “Stratifications,” pieces on conversion, as in currency conversion—this was until this the period when no one knew how to address the post-Soviet era in literature.

I was walking by way of the Centre Pompidou recently, and I saw and heard him. There was a mini-exhibit in his memory, and his communicate was piped into different locations on the fourth floor. It is very hard-boiled to believe that ten years have passed since his death.

Valentina Polukhina, Professor of Keele University:

I had the break of meeting Dmitri Prigov quite often, because he visited my university [Keele University, Staffordshire] a sprinkling times. In 1995 we published a bilingual collection of his poems, Texts of Our Survival. His witty poems and unique manner of reading captivated our students and educators so much that my colleague Robert Reid and my PhD student Chris Jones explained his poems into English almost as well as professional translators. I wrote an introduction or this collecting.

The popularity of Prigov’s book exceeded all our expectations. Teachers and students from other areas attended his evenings. He liked our campus, its pond and parks so much that he time again came there to work in peace. He was an easy guest, always in a nice mood, he didn’t drink or smoke, and never spoke badly helter-skelter other people or poets. When I moved to London, he visited me and my budget, and was even my official witness at our wedding, when a friend fell ill so that we needed another verify at the last minute. I called Prigov and asked if he’d agree to take on this responsibility. He answered my question with a question “What is concealed behind this petition?” he asked me. “Nothing,” I replied, adding mischievously , “Except that f my groom throws me out of the house, then I will move in with you.” – “Ok, then I correspond,” – was his answer.

Olga Matich, Professor of Russian literature at the University of California, Berkeley:

Dmitri Aleksandrovich was tortured by the KGB, and at the beginning of perestroika he was sent to a psychiatric hospital because he was hanging broadsides in Moscow with quotes by Nekrasov, for example «Remember, You do not have to be a rimester, but you must be a citizen.» Under public pressure, however, they reported him. Times had changed. My favorite memory of him is a virtuoso performance of Mantras of Russian Important Culture at Berkeley. He performed Evgeny Onegin’s first paragraph in a Buddhist demeanour. <...>

Once Prigov was our guest, and in the mornings he would bring us a bunch of songs written during the night. When I asked him to show one of them to me, he symbolized that individually they have no special significance, that he was operating on a project — writing a specific number of poems. I don’t remember how many, but it was a massive number that recalled the Soviet Stakhanovites. In other words, he was uttering graphomania as a device. <...>

Dmitri Aleksandrovich Prigov. From the Dmitri Aleksandrovich Prigov. From the «Phantom» station. / State Tretyakov Gallery

Prigov performed at Berkeley in 2001, not desire before Kabakov. It can be said that our spring semester passed below the sign of Moscow conceptualism. <...> That time he also stayed at my place, working nights on graphic images using multi-colored inks and also brought that which he created in the mornings. We talked a lot about life, especially I remember his recollections of how as a child he spent about six months in bed because of polio, and how diligently he fought its aftereffects, doing exercises to restore his muscles.

«I managed to overcome the aftermath of the paralysis, but as you see, I quiescent limp,» he said.

He applied this systematic approach, perseverance and determined work to his art.

(Material taken from Olga Matich’s book, Reminiscences of a Russian-American with permission of the author)

Nicolas Liucci-Goutniko, the Kollektsia+ fair’s French curator:

«Dmitri Prigov is definitely one of the most important images of Russian contemporary art. Although deeply rooted in langage, e.g. Russian circulars, his work has imposed an international visual idiom dealing with both metaphysics and manipulation, transcending any kind of borders and assignments thanks to his all-encompassing energy. Hold responsibles to Nadia Bourova, Centre Pompidou is very proud to now hold in its anthology a significant ensemble of works by Prigov, which allow the museum to take up again its perspectives on conceptualism.»

Read more: Where to find contemporary art in Moscow and St. Petersburg

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