“The Desert of Forbidden Art” At The Orientalist Museum

The Orientalist Museum presents “The Desert of Forbidden Art”, a film about the suffering of artists in the former Soviet Union, and the struggle of Igor Savitsky to rescue 40,000 fellow artists’ works and create a museum in Nukus in Uzbekistan’s desert.

The film will be screened on October 27, 2011, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m., in the auditorium of the Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, Qatar. It will be followed by a panel discussion with Marinika Babanazarova, Tchavdar Georgiev, Amanda Pope and Andrei Volkov.


The incredible story of how a treasure trove of banned Soviet art worth millions of dollars is stashed in a far-off desert of Uzbekistan develops into a larger exploration of how art survives in times of oppression.

During the Soviet regime, a small group of artists remain true to their vision despite threats of torture, imprisonment and death.
Their plight inspires a frustrated young painter Igor Savitsky. Pretending to buy State-approved art, Savitsky instead daringly rescues 40,000 forbidden fellow artist’s works and creates a museum in the desert of Uzbekistan, far from the watchful eyes of the KGB. Though a penniless artist himself, he cajoles the cash to pay for the art from the same authorities who are banning it. He amasses an eclectic mix of Russian Avant-Garde art. But his greatest discovery is an unknown school of artists who settle in Uzbekistan after the Russian revolution of 1917, encountering a unique Islamic culture, as exotic to them as Tahiti was for
Gauguin. They develop a startlingly original style, fusing European modernism with centuries-old Eastern traditions.

The Desert of Forbidden Art

The Desert of Forbidden Art

Ben Kingsley, Sally Field and Ed Asner voice the diaries and letters of Savitsky and the artists. Intercut with recollections of the artists’ children and rare archival footage, the film takes us on a dramatic journey of sacrifice for the sake of creative freedom. Described as “one of the most remarkable collections of 20th century Russian art” by the New York Times and located in one of the world’s poorest regions, today these priceless paintings are a lucrative target for Islamic fundamentalists, corrupt bureaucrats and art profiteers.

The collection remains as endangered as when Savitsky first created it, posing the question whose responsibility is it to preserve this cultural treasure.

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