Khardzhiev’s archive. Unique materials about the Russian avant-garde and works from private collections

In artibus Foundation, in cooperation with RGALI opened a large-scale research exhibition “Khardzhiev Archive” on October 11, which for the first time in Russia presents the legacy of outstanding Russian avant-gardists from the famous private collection of writer and historian Nikolai Khardzhiev.

The Khardzhiev Archive exhibition is sensational not only because of the value of the presented material, but also because of the history of the famous archive. Thanks to non-standard and partly controversial methods of collecting, Nikolai Ivanovich Khardzhiev managed to save dozens of unique materials for the history of Russian culture, which became a clear evidence of the turbulent process of creative searches of the 1910s and 1920s. His collection includes not only paintings and graphic works, but also rare documents – drafts and manuscripts, poetic and artistic sketches, photographs, autographs.

The exhibition presents archival materials that have become available to researchers for the first time, as well as rare books, paintings and graphic works from private collections and the largest museums in Moscow. The audience will see the documentary and artistic heritage of Velimir Khlebnikov, Alexey Kruchenykh, Vladimir Tatlin, Elena Guro, Natalia Goncharova and Olga Rozanova. The collection also includes previously unknown theoretical texts by Lazar Lisitsky, Kazimir Malevich, Mikhail Matyushin and unique materials related to Vitebsk and UNOVIS. The exhibition for the first time gives an opportunity to get acquainted with one of the most significant private collections of the Russian avant-garde.

The curators of the exhibition Ekaterina Bobrinskaya and Anna Korndorf comment: “The history of the Khardzhiev archive and the very structure of the exhibition testify to the huge role played by private collecting in preserving the heritage of the Russian avant-garde. It was private collectors who saved many works of artists from death and complete oblivion, which today are the pride of Russian culture.”

The fate of this valuable archive was tragic: when Khardzhiev decided to emigrate, he did not donate part of his collection to the state in order to preserve the rest. The collector tried to take the collection abroad, while most of the archive was illegally transported to Amsterdam and stored in the Stedelijk Museum, the other was arrested at customs in Moscow and transferred to RGALI.

For decades, the materials of the Khardzhiev archive were fragmented between the two countries, there were many legends about the collection. Only in May 2011, in Amsterdam, in a solemn atmosphere in one of the halls of the Hermitage branch on the Amstel, an agreement was signed on joint activities of the Russian State Archive of Literature and Art and the Netherlands Foundation “Khardzhiev-Chaga Cultural Center”, at the end of November of the same year, the collection was delivered to Moscow and transferred to RGALI.

The staff of the Archive of the Russian State Archive of Literature and Art (RGALI), together with the largest avant-garde researchers, art historians and philologists, have done a great job of systematizing and describing the Khardzhiev archive. Tatiana Goryaeva, director of RGALI, said that “it was important to reunite the collection of world importance, to create a holistic scientific base with an accessible fund for use.”
However, in 2011, the opening of the reunited archive was impossible, because by order of Khardzhiev in the 1990s, the remaining part of the archive in Russia was closed to researchers for 25 years. Today, for the first time, the In artibus Foundation makes available a unique collection of documents related to the culture of the early twentieth century.

For the opening of the exhibition, the In artibus Foundation, together with RGALI, are releasing the first of three planned volumes of documents from the archive of Nikolai Khardzhiev.

Curators of the exhibition: Ekaterina Bobrinskaya and Anna Korndorf.

15 September 2022 — 30 October 2022
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