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This story was published before Summer 2021, when we launched our new digital experience.

Renegade Art

If someone ever writes a history of Russian alternative art, Alexander Petlura will be remembered for the creation of trash. His extraordinary collection, which he houses in his appointment-only gallery, is now 30 years old, contains more than 20,000 items, and is sourced primarily from dumps, abandoned houses, and flea markets. "I gather objects created by subjects, not by me," he exclaims in his rapid-fire, spittle-flecked delivery. For those of the underground art fraternity of perestroika-era communism, Petlura was the quintessential performance artist, a true ideologue. His makeshift museum attracted much of the same boho crowd as did the laboratory of a more famous Slavic forebear, Andy Warhol, and with no less controversy.

Petlura’s regular appearance at openings—dressed in a White Army civil war uniform—was perhaps the first sign that the old order was irrep­arably crumbling and freedom of ex­­pression was here to stay, if only for a decade. At 28/2 Ulitsa Petrovka, Bldg. 1, Apt. 11; 7-495/694-3469.


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