Cultural Creative Agency

Cultural Codes of the Russian Art, from the Icon to Avant-Garde: a Lecture by Kirill Svetlyakov

A series of talks on Russian culture

Russian history has undergone numerous social and political transformations that interrupted the development of its visual culture. However, as Kirill Svetlyakov shows in his presentation, the same cultural codes were repeated and reinterpreted all over again by different generations of icon painters and artists across the centuries:the transfiguration of matter into spirit, overcoming gravity, and egalitarianism, to name just a few. Moreover, for some of the artists, referencing pagan rituals, local folklore, Byzantine iconography, or non-European cults was a way to juxtapose oneself to the Western canon. This nonlinear approach, suggested by Svetlyakov, gives the keys to deciphering the hidden meanings and motifs behind Russian art history.


1. A Guide to Russian art of the XX century at New Tretyakov gallery. Edited by Kirill Svetlyakov. Moscow: Paulsen, 2015.

2. Bowlt, John E. Russian Art of the Avant Garde: Theory and Criticism 1902–1934. New York: The Viking Press, 1976.

3. Bowlt, John E. Laboratory of Dreams: The Russian Avant-Garde & Cultural Experiment. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999.

4. Gray, Camilla. The Russian Experiment in Art: 1863–1922. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1970. 

5. Rudenstine, Angelica Zander. Russian Avant-Garde Art: The George Costakis Collection. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1981. 


A series of seven lectures conducted by prominent Russian scholars in cinema, literature, visual art, theater, music, architecture, and design. Each of the speakers presents a broad authorial perspective on their respective fields and puts it in the wider cultural and social landscape. What distinguishes this crash course from others is that it highlights not only Western, but also Eastern influences, relations, and parallels. This series is held in English with Arabic subtitles and will be accompanied by the Russian Culture Manual. Participants: Kirill Adibekov, Alexei Vdovin, Kirill Svetlyakov, Valery Zolotukhin, Roman Nasonov, Anna Bronovitskaya, and Alexandra Sankova. 

Kirill Svetlyakov
Moscow-based curator. He has been working at the State Tretyakov Gallery since 2006. His recent curatorial projects include The Thaw. 1953-1968 (2016), Hyperrealism. When Reality Becomes an Illusion (2015), Dmitry Prigov: From the Renaissance to Conceptualism and Beyond (2014), Decoration of the Beautiful. Elitism and Kitsch in Contemporary Art (2012), all at the State Tretyakov Gallery. In 2011 Svetlyakov received the Independent Sergey Kuryokhin Contemporary Art Award for his exhibition Hostages of Voids that had been part of the IV Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art.