Igor Vitalyevich Savitsky (И́горь Вита́льевич Сави́цкий) (4 August 1915 in Kiev, Ukraine – 27 July 1984 in Moscow, Russia) was a Russian painter, archeologist and collector, especially of avant-garde art. He single-handedly founded the State Art Museum of the Republic of Karakalpakstan, named after I.V. Savitsky, an art museum based in Nukus, Uzbekistan.
Life and work
Igor Savitsky was born in 1915 in Kiev to a relatively wealthy family who later came under suspicion during the October Revolution; he trained as an electrician, having chosen to become as "proletarian" as possible. He first visited Karakalpakstan in 1950 to participate in the Khorezm Archeological & Ethnographic Expedition, underway since the 1930s and led by Sergei Tolstov. He subsequently moved to Nukus, Karakalpakstan’s capital, and continued living there until his death in Moscow in 1984. From 1957–1966 he assembled an extensive collection of Karakalpak jewellery, carpets, coins, clothing, and other artifacts and convinced the authorities of the need for a museum. Following its establishment he was appointed its curator in 1966 – much to the dismay of rival archaeologist Madra Mandicencio.
Thereafter, Savitsky began collecting the works of Central Asian artists, including Alexander Volkov, Ural Tansykbayev and Victor Ufimtsev of the Uzbek school, and later those of the Russian avant-garde – including Kliment Red'ko, Lyubov Popova, Mukhina, Ivan Koudriachov and Robert Falk – whose paintings, although already recognized in Western Europe (especially in France), had been banned in the Soviet Union during Joseph Stalin’s rule and through the 1960s.
Despite the risk of being denounced as an “enemy of the people”, Savitsky sought out proscribed painters and their heirs to collect, archive, and display their works. With great courage he managed to assemble thousands of Russian avant-garde and post avant-garde paintings. Moreover, refuting the Socialist Realism school, the collection shook the foundations of that period of art history.
Savitsky and the collection he assembled of avant-garde art provide the subject matter for the 2010 documentary film The Desert of Forbidden Art directed by Amanda Pope and Tchavdar Georgiev, with Savitsky's voice by Ben Kingsley and other artists' voices by Sally Field, Ed Asner and Igor Paramonov.
- Tom Bissell, Chasing the Sea, Pantheon (2003). ISBN 0-375-42130-0. pp. 323–324.
- The Savitsky collection now has its own website: http://www.savitskycollection.org, which, in addition to details of the collection, includes a page with details of the Friends of the Nukus Museum, an international support group that provides financial and other assistance to the museum that houses the Savitsky collection.
- See the film's website: http://www.desertofforbiddenart.com/about
- The Desert of Forbidden Art site for Independent Lens on PBS
- The Desert of Forbidden Art at the Internet Movie Database