Independent Lens: The Desert Of Forbidden Art
Airs Sunday, April 10, 2011 at 11 p.m. on KPBS TV
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
"The Desert of Forbidden Art" is the incredible true story of how one man, Igor Savitsky, saved a treasure trove of art worth millions of dollars by "hiding" it in a museum in the desert in Uzbekistan.
The Savitsky Collection
Explore a gallery of art works by such masters of the underground Russian avant-garde as Yevgeny Lyssenko, Max Penson, Lyubov Popov, Elena Korovay, Alexander Volkov, Alexey Rybnikov and Ural Tansykbaev.
A tireless collector of paintings that the Soviet government wanted destroyed, Savitsky traveled thousands of miles scheming, plotting, pleading, doing whatever it took to get his hands on the art he so passionately wanted to preserve.
This film was written, produced and directed by Amanda Pope and Tchavdar Georgiev. Ben Kingsley, Sally Field, and Ed Asner voice the diaries and letters of Savitsky and the artists.
Today the museum Savitsky spent and risked his life for still holds the works he rescued, but although the Soviet Union collapsed and Uzbekistan gained its independence, the collection remains in imminent danger. The climate in the area is spectacularly dry, causing an accelerated disintegration of the canvases. And the regional rise of militant Islam puts Savitsky’s museum directly in the crosshairs of fundamentalists who might find the art as “degenerate” as Stalin did.
Described by The New York Times as "one of the most remarkable collections of 20th century Russian art" and located in one of the world's poorest regions, today these priceless paintings are also a lucrative target for corrupt bureaucrats and Western art profiteers. The endangered collection invites the question — whose responsibility is it to preserve a country’s cultural treasures?
"The Desert Of Forbidden Art" is on Facebook.