The Yeltsin Center in Yekaterinburg has been showing a unique exhibition of drawings by Erik Bulatov, one of very few contemporary Russian artists who has become internationally renowned.

The Yeltsin Center opened in 2015 and quickly became one of the most popular sites in the city. Today it’s much more than just a museum celebrating democracy and the freedom of the 1990s and one of its champions, first President of Russia, Boris Yeltsin. The Yeltsin Center is an important cultural and public space, with a contemporary art gallery, an independent bookstore that doubles as an educational center, a theater, a concert hall, several shops and cafes and even a nightclub.

Celebrating an artist and artistic freedom

Last fall Erik Bulatov turned 85. The Yeltsin Center is the only Russian institution that organized an exhibition to celebrate this milestone in the artist’s life and career. Bulatov, along with Ilya Kabakov and Viktor Pivovarov, is one of the most important figures in Moscow conceptualist or non-conformist art of the 1960s. His trademark style is immediately recognizable: large slogans marching across a landscape or cityscape.

The exhibition at the Yeltsin Center is entitled “Freedom Exists” and it’s a reference to his work “Freedom,” which is held in the Center’s history museum. The exhibition consists of more than 150 drawings from the artist’s large collection made from 1955 to 2018. “This massive number of drawings was divided, not by periods of time, but by thematic group. There are some sketches for paintings, some drawings of nature, some drawings for book illustrations. This is how everything is represented at the exhibition, starting from my student drawings and up to the latest ones that I am doing right now,” Bulatov told The Moscow Times.

The exhibition culminates with a large scale photo of one of Bulatov’s latest works: a sculpture, which says “Vse Ne Tak Strashno” (It’s Not All So Terrible), installed at the decommissioned iron foundry in Maubourguet, France. “It is important to the context here, since it’s a summing up of sorts, a closure,” said Bulatov.