Lecture: American Visual Art in the Soviet Union during the Cold War: Defining Patterns, Strategies, and Impacts

Tuesday, 28. November 2017
15.15 – 16.45

University of Konstanz, D 433

Chair of Slavistics, Zukunftskolleg

Kirill Chunikhin, Independent Researcher

This event is part of the event series „Slavic Research Colloquium“.


American visual art in the Cold War Soviet Union was subject to distinct approaches to representation. In his paper, Kirill Chunikhin will uncover how both the Soviet Union and the United States exploited American paintings, graphics, and sculpture in order to advance ideological values and criticize each other’s political system. He will argue that Soviet institutions exploited American art for anti-American propaganda, as they promoted leftist figurative artists marginalized in the United States. Providing an aesthetic shelter for artists allegedly suppressed in America for political reasons, Soviet propaganda used exhibitions of American art for a straightforward criticism of the “bourgeois” United Sates. Simultaneously, American institutions advanced American modernist art which worked as subversive and anti-Soviet because it revealed the contrast of freedom of artistic expression in the totalitarian and democratic states. Analyzing the emergence, maintenance, and decline of the two strategies of exhibiting American art, he will ultimately demonstrate that both countries competed for the right to establish a dominant historical account of American art. This allowed a paradox: two opposing accounts of one American art existed in the Soviet Union during the Cold War.        

Kirill Chunikhin graduated with a degree in English Philology from Kemerovo State University in 2009. He entered the Department of Art History at the European University at St. Petersburg in 2010 and defended his M.A. thesis “Clement Greenberg: A Historical Apology of Modernism” in 2012. Last year, he defended his Ph.D. at Jacobs University Bremen. His research project explored the representation of American visual art in the USSR during the Cold War.