With £500,000 at stake, the Plastov Award sets the art world to Googling

Arkady Plastov, Haymaking, 1945

Arkady Plastov, Haymaking, 1945

Who says all the Russian art money is wrapped up in Bacons and Hirsts…?

Today, London will host the ceremony  for the Plastov Award. The award – which recognizes Russia’s still strong traditions of “realistic art,” in the spirit of Socialist Realist icon Arkady Plastov (1893-1972) – consists of 16 categories, including the moneyless prize for Children’s Creativity. It will be accompanied by an exhibition of both past winners and the prize namesake, which will run through February 5 at MacDougall’s Auction House in London. The Plastov Award was founded in 2007, but did not make headlines until 2011, when its prize total tipped upwards to £25,000. This year, the award really grabbed headlines, bumping the figure to a startling £500,000 (roughly $792,000.)

Who was able to put up this money? The Governor of Ulyanovsk, Sergey Morozov, presumably with a little help from his friends at the Russian Ministry of Culture. For those a little rusty on Russian geography, Ulyanovsk is settled on the Volga River, just north of Samara, and about midway between Moscow and Ekaterinburg. Morozov – an outspoken advocate of the traditional arts, who in 2010 secured 50 million rubles for a Center for Folk Art – explains his rationale in a short statement on the site:

This is one more step on the road to promote the art heritage of the great painter, to preserve the unique creative environment that encouraged Plastov’s talent. The International Artists Exhibition “Plastovskaya osen”, as well as awarding prizes by the name of Plastov, solve one of the most important national issues, such as the preservation of traditions of the great Russian art school. “Plastov’s Award” has become a significant event with an international status. It’s one more emphasis on the intention on cultural cooperation with the CIS, Europe and World countries. “Plastov’s Award” brings together followers of the Master at his homeland to accentuate, that realistic art traditions are alive and have no national boundaries.

He concludes, “There is no doubt about that ‘Plastov’s Award’ can become a sort of ‘Nobel Prize for Painting.'”

Arkady Plastov, Spring, 1951

Arkady Plastov, Spring, 1951

While that statement may flirt ever so slightly with hyperbole, Morozov is right about Plastov’s prominence within Soviet Art History. The “Legacy” page on the website describes him as “the genius of the Russian century. He created more than 10, 000 works, received more than a dozen awards, his works are in the collection of the Institute of Russian realistic art.” In particular, he is known for paintings like Haymaking, 1945, which won him the Stalin Award in 1946, and Spring, 1951, in which, according to the award’s website: “The artist skillfully conveys the beauty of a young naked female body, the transparency of the icy air. Man and nature are presented here in inextricable connection.”

Submissions for the 2013 Award will be accepted via website, starting in May.

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