MIGRATION AND MEMORY: JEWISH ARTISTS OF THE RUSSIAN AND SOVIET EMPIRES
MUSEUM OF RUSSIAN ICONS
203 UNION STREET
By Flavia Cigliano
Conceived to coincide with the cen- tennial of the Russian Revolution (1917), “Migration and Memory: Jewish Artists of the Russian and Soviet Empires” presents the work of 50 artists, predominantly Jewish, from the pre- and post-revolu- tionary eras. The exhibit was organized by Boston’s Ballets Russes Arts Initiative, and continues the Museum of Russian Icon’s ongoing public programs focusing on Russian art and culture.
Anna Winestein, executive director of the Ballets Russes Arts Initiative, served as the show’s guest curator. Winestein worked closely with Vladimir and Vera Torchilin, whose personal collection was the source of all the artwork in the exhibit. When the Torchilins emigrated from Russia to the United States in early 1990s, they brought with them an extensive art collection, started by Vladimir Torchilin’s father, which emphasized the works of Jewish artists.
A leading biochemist, pharmacologist and specialist in nanomedicine, Vladimir Torchilin is now distinguished professor and director of the Center for Pharmaceutical Biotechnology and Nanomedicine at Northeastern University. Vera Torchilin, now retired, was an executive at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney. They continue to collect art by Russian artists.
The 1917 Revolution, also referred to as the October Revolution, brought down the Russian Empire and established Communist rule in what became the Soviet Union. The revolution favor- ably changed the desperate situation of Jewish artists. Relenting on the oppressive control and marginalization of Jews that had characterized imperial rule, the newly established Communist government opened opportunities for them. Jewish artists in particular benefitted, since they now were able to practice their art or to immigrate to the West – usually to Europe or the United States with fewer state-imposed restrictions.