The Jordan Center’s Colloquium Series serves to introduce the most recent work of scholars within the Slavic field. Participants come from universities across the country and abroad, and work in disciplines ranging from history, political science and anthropology to literature and film. In the first session of the Fall 2015 Colloquium Series on September 18, 2015, Mark Konecny will join us from the Institute of Modern Russian Culture to speak on his research project “Who is Madame K. and Why is She in a Hotel in Riverside, California? The Creation of a Market for Russian Art in America.”
By examining the fate of the lost art of the Russian Exhibition at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, Missouri, known as the 1904 World’s Fair, and its reception by American audiences, Konecny concentrates on the creation of an emerging market for Russian cultural offerings that occurs in the first decades of the 20th century. An examination of the Russian Exhibition is also prompted by a needed reassessment of Russian outsider art and the general reception of Russian art in the United States. Though there were works by noted artists like Repin, Roerich, and Vereshchagin, many of the participating artists were women, religious minorities, or from provincial locations: not from the Russian Academy or the avant-garde groups that dominated the perceived narrative of Russian art at the turn of the century. This project hopes to encourage an appreciation of art exchanges and enhance the understanding of how art has been used to effect social, political, and technological change in the world. As the art was gradually sold off to galleries in New York and San Francisco, a small but enthusiastic group of collectors began to concentrate on buying and promoting Russian art in America.
Konecny is the Associate Director and Curator of the archives and library of the Institute of Modern Russian Culture, a unique collection of twentieth century books, art, and cultural artifacts. His area of expertise is the interdisciplinary study of Russian and European culture of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. He concentrates on the varied milieu of folk and popular theater as well as cabaret and the Imperial theater of the time as it relates to performance of the pre-revolutionary and revolutionary periods within the context of the larger movement of the European avant-garde. He is currently working on a monographic study of Russian cabaret in exile and an exhibition of Russian artists who participated in the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair.