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Vitebsk: The Life of Art
Robert Motherwell Book Award 2008
The winner of the 2008 Robert Motherwell Book Award is Vitebsk: The Life of Art (Yale University Press) by Aleksandra Shatskikh.
In this study of the artistic life of Vitebsk during the years 1917-1922, Aleksandra Shatskikh opens new perspectives on the origins of modernism in Russia immediately following the October Revolution. She shows how Vitebsk became an energized center for a whole generation of avant-garde artists, under the leadership of Marc Chagall, who returned to his hometown to assume the position of Art Commissar. Drawing upon newly available archives in Russia and in Amsterdam, Ms. Shatskikh recreates the remarkably vibrant artistic and intellectual community that included El Lissitzky, Yuri Pen, Kazimir Malevich, Nikolai Suetin, and Michail Bakhtin, among others. Their creativity, mutually supported through the artists’ group Unovis, extended from the pedagogy of Chagall’s Academy of Art to the architectural experiments of Malevich and developments in theater and music.
Ms. Shatskikh describes this short-lived constellation with both scholarly thoroughness and impressively deep critical affection, bringing to life a remarkable moment in the history of both Russian and European modernism.
Aleksandra Shatskikh received her doctorate from The State Institute of Art Studies in Moscow, where she has also served as a Senior Research Fellow. Her publications include several books on the art and writings of Kasimir Malevich, as well as books and articles on Marc Chagall and other twentieth century Russian artists.
The members of the jury were Dore Ashton, John Elderfield, David Rosand, and Richard Shiff.
The Dedalus Foundation was established by the will of Robert Motherwell and is dedicated to fostering the understanding and appreciation of modern art and the traditions of modernism.