Valerian Sidamon- Eristavi Unknown Collection of Famous Artist. From Modernism to Social Realism 02-15.12.2018

”Rarity” Project 

European Year of Cultural Heritage 

Unknown collection of a famous artist

From modernism to social realism

Study, inventory, rehabilitation and cataloging of art works kept in private collection is of utter importance from the standpoint of studying and protecting the Georgian Cultural Heritage. Finding in private collections and promotion of artworks that are valuable   for museums is a significant direction of the culture policy.  

The “Rarity” Project of our gallery envisages studying cultural heritage with the aim to discover in private collections and promote art works that are unique and important for museums and were unknown to the society before their discovery. Particularly noteworthy are those works in private collections that are significant milestones of the cultural heritage and majority of them have never been exhibited or studied before.    

Valerian Sidamon-Eristavi is one of the most significant and versatile representatives of the 20th Century Georgian Painting, who actually, formed various directions of the Georgian Art at the onset of the century. Development of historical and battle genres in the Georgian Paintings, establishment of the Georgian theatre production design school, the initial phase in the history of the cinema production design and other milestones of the Georgian Culture are linked to the name of this artist. His artistic works reflected the tragic and controversial developments of the beginning of the 20th century which also affected the field of culture when in the 1930s the modernist style was replaced by the social realism.

Therefore, it can be deemed a sensation and discovery that the collection (over 400 paintings and graphic works, photos and archival documents, manuscripts) of such  an important Georgian artist as Valerian Sidamon-Eristavi - an outstanding representative of Georgian Modernism, mega-star of the 20th century Georgian Art, a contemporary of David Kakabadze, Lado Gudiashvili, Petre Otskheli, Elene Akhvlediani, and Shalva Kikodze (famous Georgian artists), the first theatre stage and costume designer of Georgia, pioneer of the Soviet cinema production design, artist, graphic artist, illustrator and teacher -  is to appear in exhibiton halls and on the art markets.     

It is rather important to find even one work of such an artist in a private collection, whereas discovering the whole collection (400 works), and exhibiting and studying it can be considered an unprecedented event, like which cannot be found in Georgia.      

According to the art market statistics, the works of Valerian Sidamon-Eristavi as well as those of Niko Pirosmani, Petre Otskheli, Shalva Kikodze and Davit Kakabadze are on the list of the rarest works. A considerable part of Sidamon-Eristavi’s works (up to 300) are kept in the museums of Georgia. Some of them are kept in Moscow State Museum of Oriental Art, Moscow State Tretyakov Gallery, and Baku Art Museum.  

The exhibition “Unknown collection of a famous artist” includes over 400 works: paintings, graphical works, theatre and cinema production designs, several albums of sketches, photos, archival documents, i.e. in total, this is almost the same number of works as kept collectively in various Georgian museums.  

This is the first time that the collection of such importance is exhibited on the Georgian art market. The study and promotion of this collection will contribute, based on the works of one artist, to reconstruction of a very interesting part of the Georgian Cultural Heritage, which is the process of development of culture in the first half of the 20th century. Each sketch, drawing or completed work contains huge cultural information. Hence, the study of these works is of utter importance for development of the Georgian culture and reconstruction of its history.  

Baia Gallery has been working on this project for over a year. As a result, more than 100 works of the painter have been rehabilitated, materials and archival documents reviewed, electronic database and the webpage of the collection created, the exhibits framed, information placed on social network, and bibliography compiled. The Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sport of Georgia supported the process of preparations (in particular, the exhibition package, frames, web page installation).  

The preparation works are divided in two stages: the first stage included the works we conducted and the 2018 exhibition, whereas the second stage, devoted to the 130th birthday anniversary of the artist, envisages production of a catalogue, promotion and advertising of the collection, marketing activities to sell the collection and the final jubilee exhibition “Valerian Sidamon-Eristavi” in 2019.    

The aim of the gallery and the owner of the collection is to retain this unique collection for Georgia. Despite many offers to split the collection and sell the works separately, the gallery is trying to find a person who is interested in saving the Georgian cultural heritage and will buy the collection to hand it over to one of the museums of Georgia or create appropriate conditions for the works. As keeping and protecting the collection requires specific conditions, the best solution would be its placement in a museum what would be a valuable acquisition in terms of preservation and study of the Georgian Cultural Heritage. Purchasing the collection will be an action of saving a part of national treasure, like the one performed by Ekvtime Taqaishvili (famous Georgian scholar and historian), particularly considering that there is no single album published on the works of Valerian Sidamon-Eristavi. The present project envisages publishing such documents as contracts signed with the artist, librettos of the works, memoires, photos, etc. Without these materials it is impossible to reconstruct the creative life of Valerian Sidamon-Eristavi, because the materials currently exhibited in museums is just a part of his works.      

The exclusive right to study and exhibit the collection as well as manage the property and copyright, belongs to Baia Gallery.    

Author of the project and curator of the exhibition – Baia Tsikoridze