Lecture Activist Club - Art Theft in Soviet Film - Oleksiy Radynski - free entrance

Oleksiy Radynski

Lecture Activist Club Art Theft in Soviet Film - Oleksiy Radynski - free entrance

18:00 - 20:00
Curator: Galit Eilat


Oleksiy Radynsky (Kiev/Ukraine) is a scholar of art and film theory with an interest in Soviet montage and research-based art practices. Author of studies based on the art of Dziga Vertov (Soviet pioneer in documentaryfilm and film theorist), Boris Mikhailov (one of the most important and still active fine art photographers from the former USSR) and Kira Muratova  (director, scriptwriter and actress with a large Soviet and Russian oeuvre).

Stealing Saint Lucas: Art Theft in Soviet Film

Three films dealing with art theft were made in Soviet Union in 1970. Granddad’s-Robbers by Eldar Ryazanov (produced by Mosfilm) dealt with a theft of a Rembrandt painting from a museum that was arranged by an elderly Soviet police detective in order to solve the case successfully and avoid retirement. Simultaneously, Moldova-Film (a filmstudio based in Chisinau, Romania) released Theft, a detective about an art collector falsely accused of selling a unique Russian icon to a London gallery. Finally, in that same year The Return of Saint Lucas was completed. The latter film was based on a true story. In February 1965 Evangelist Lucas by France Hals was stolen from a temporary exhibition at Pushkin Museum in Moscow. This was a first major case of art theft in Soviet Union. Curiously enough, weeks before this theft Yekaterina Furtseva, Soviet minister of culture at that time, famously stated that in USSR, unlike in the West, works of art were not being stolen. The disappearance of Evangelist Lucas was kept secret, and the investigation of this case was put under special control. In 1966 the painting was found. The case was silenced in the media, however, the film The Return of Saint Lucas was produced. The film didn’t stick to the details of a real story, but its key components (a painting that was stolen and a museum where it happened) were literally reproduced. As a result of a case of Evangelist Lucas, the motif of art theft (that was only recently dismissed as non-existent in Soviet society) was legitimized as a part of detective genre. Art theft, a topic that was absent from Soviet popular culture prior to 1970s, was in a manifold way introduced into a Soviet detective film. The Soviet art theft films represent the emergence of an art market in a society that tended to outlaw economic operations with the artworks, reducing them to a mere symbolic value of museum objects.

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