By Nigar Orujova
Artworks of Azerbaijani painters are presented at the "At the Crossroads: Contemporary Art from the Caucasus and Central Asia" exhibition that opened at Sotheby's, New Bond Street, London on Monday.
Diverse artistic practices on display, from socialist-realist to non-conformist, right through to the forefront of emerging contemporary, arise from the unique encounter of ancient historical heritages with evolving modern day techniques.
Joanna Vickery, Senior Director and Head of Sotheby`s Russian Art Department in London, says the art on display varies widely in style but is unified by the region`s slow emergence from a conformist Soviet school.
"Countries throughout the Caucasus and Central Asia have experienced rapid growth in recent years and this is also true of the art scene there," Vickery said. "New collectors, art institutions and galleries are emerging every day, and it is an exciting new geography for Sotheby`s to explore. We are therefore delighted to present this landmark selling exhibition, which encompasses the diverse artistic practices of the region that combine ancient historical roots with techniques at the forefront of contemporary art."
Works by Azerbaijan's well-known painters Tahir Salahov, Togrul Narimanbayov, Mirnadir Zeynalov, Javad Mirjavadov, Ashraf Murad, Faig Ahmad, Altay Sadigzade, Aydan Salahova, Mahmud Rustamov and Rasim Babayev are displayed at the exhibition.
Salahov`s 1987 portrait of composer Dmitry Shostakovich is considered one of the show`s highlights. The portrait, showing Shostakovich sitting in profile against a severe, snowy background, is among the exhibition`s top-priced items.
Vickery described Salakhov`s work as "very collectible" and "incredibly difficult to find."
"This piece is an amazing portrait of Shostakovich. The artist painted him a few times. It`s just a fantastic work and would appeal to our very traditional Russian collectors. And it`s priced very much taking that marketplace into account," she said.
Many of the works in "At the Crossroads" are being exhibited in the West for the first time, meaning good exposure - and potential profits - for the artists involved. All of the pieces are on sale, with list prices starting at $3,000 and rising to Salakhov`s $500,000 portrait.
The first-ever selling exhibition, which brought together 50 artworks from the mountains of the Caucasus to Kazakhstan`s steppe and the Chinese borders, will last until March 12, according to Sotheby's website.
The exhibition is aimed to highlight the diverse cultural expressions of the region, while exploring its shared Soviet past. The title "At the Crossroads" suggests the transitory stage in which the countries from the region find themselves, both socio-politically and in terms of artistic production.