May 28, 2005
Minneapolis, Minn. — Brad Shinkle, president and director of the Museum of Russian Art, says the universal reaction he gets from visitors to the museum is, "this is not what I was expecting."
Shinkle says most Americans think Soviet-era art is comprised of either large portraits of significant Soviet leaders, like Stalin, or propaganda posters. Shinkle says these two categories are a small slice of Soviet art. He says most of the art is similar to the work produced by French and English impressionist painters.
Shinkle says that because Soviet artists were given a regular salary, free education, and cheap art supplies by the communist government, their subject matter was influenced by communist leaders. Like politicians, artists were interested in promoting the idea of a utopian society.
The museum's collection began as the passion of Minnesota businessman Ray Johnson, who became interested in Soviet-era art after the communist regime fell. He visited Russia several times looking for artistic gems. He also sent a proxy to live in the Russia for a year to learn about the art market there.
The "In the Russian Tradition" exhibit is on display at the Museum of Russian Art through July 31. The museum is located at 5500 Stevens Ave. S. in Minneapolis.
Shinkle spoke with MPR's Greta Cunningham about the museum. To hear their interview, choose the audio link the right column.