A moment of unexpected bliss came to me this week while watching the trailer for the documentary, Desert of Forbidden Art. If only this film were coming to the NC Museum of Art (hint hint). In the 1950’s and ’60’s, Igor Savitsky traveled throughout the Soviet Union to collect (and save) 40,000 works of avant-garde art. The Stalin regime tortured, imprisoned and killed the artists responsible for what it called “decadent bourgeois art.” Savitsky stored his collection far from Moscow in the deserts of Uzbekistan. Today the Uzbek Ministry of Culture refuses to allow any of the collection to leave the country for exhibition elsewhere, so this movie is the closest we’ll get to these beautiful treasures.

The collection is still not safe according to Stephen Kinzer, former New York Times Bureau Chief for Central Asia:

“Central Asia is really not a stable region, and Uzbekistan is in a very turbulent area, of course it borders on Afghanistan. And some of the same trends that you see in Afghanistan have also emerged in Uzbekistan. The influence of Islamic fundamentalism could grow substantially. How that would affect a collection of art that is abstract, modernistic, and that is run by a woman, could be a little bit disturbing.”

A new exhibit opens later this week at the North Carolina Museum of Art, 30 Americans. It’s a survey of work from the Rubell Family Collection by 30 African-American artists of the last thirty years.

“30 Americans focuses on issues of racial, sexual, and historical identity in contemporary culture. It explores how each artist reckons with the notion of black identity in America, navigating such concerns as the struggle for civil rights, popular culture, and media imagery. At the same time, it highlights artistic legacy and influence, tracing subject matter and formal strategies across generations.”

I’m going Saturday to see the show and to watch the UNC debate team wrestle with this question: can there be such a thing as truly black art? Already there’s a bit of good discussion on NCMA’s Facebook page about that topic.

Do you remember the Hide/Seek show at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery? Caving into ridiculous pressure from ultra-conservative blow-hards, the Smithsonian removed a video from the exhibition after it opened, causing a well-deserved uproar. It turns out the Brooklyn Museum and the Tacoma Art Museum are making room in their calendar for the exhibition. “We are very keen on making sure that we represent the National Portrait Gallery’s presentation as fully as possible.”

The New York Times ran an interesting story this week about the White House curator, William G. Allman. Once when I was volunteering at the National Gallery of Art, I did a database search for a visitor to find out if any paintings by a particular artist were on view. That’s when I discovered that one was on loan to the White House. On further search, I found a few other NGA pieces that were temporarily sprucing up 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The Times article gives us an inside peek at the man who keeps the most prestigious house museum ticking.

Like you, I still can’t wrap my mind around the devastation in Japan. I can’t imagine the pain they’ve suffered and the anxiety they’re living with still. I imagine that James Whitehouse of Signalnoise worked through his emotions by making this beautiful Help Japan poster. The poster sold out quickly with all proceeds going to disaster relief.