Places / Russia

“These Are Not Just Portraits By Andy Warhol. I Wanted To Make A Show About People” – Maria Nasimova

Tomorrow the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow will present the exhibition “Andy Warhol: Ten Portraits of Famous Jews of the Twentieth Century.” To learn more, I met Maria Nasimova, the museum’s new chief curator.


Maria Nasimova. Courtesy: Jewish Museum and Tolerance center, Moscow, Russia

Kate Shebanova: Masha, could you tell us about the show? What’s the difference between the show from 1980 ‘Ten Portraits of Jews of the Twentieth Century’, which Warhol opened in Jewish Museum in New York, and all other forthcoming shows?

Maria Nasimova: First of all, let me explain to you how the idea of the series emerged. It’s widely known that Andy Warhol often turned to his friends while looking for new ideas. For instance, he asked Ronald Feldman, who was his gallerist at that time, to give him advice for quite a long time. Ronald had a Jewish background, so he suggested the idea of the ‘Great Jews’ series.

Jewish Museum and Tolerance center. Exhibition overlook © Jewish Museum and Tolerance center, Moscow, Russia

Jewish Museum and Tolerance center. Exhibition overlook © Jewish Museum and Tolerance center, Moscow, Russia

Warhol made ten portraits in two artistic media; he produced paintings and silkscreens. They are all different in terms of color palette and format. At the first show in New York he exhibited 30 artworks, i.e. all works from this series. Here, in the Jewish Museum of Moscow, we are going to show only the paintings. We are not going to recreate the entire exhibition. Actually, Warhol did not paint much. It is the only series by Andy Warhol that belongs to one collector, the Blavatnik family. This show not only consists of Andy Warhol’s artworks. My goal was to make a show about people.

KS: How long did it take you to make the exhibition?

MN: We initially discussed this idea in February 2013. After that, the concept of the show changed several times. We wanted to present the artworks in two media, both paintings and silkscreens. Then it became clear that we’d rather not go in this direction, and we chose a different approach: For me as a viewer, it would be more exciting to learn about these people, rather than seeing the same image in two different colors. I want to tell a story about personalities since these people are a big part of our daily life, a part of life that we normally don’t think about.
The exhibition features a story about ten persons, genius people, living icons. Additionally, we’re going to show many archival materials: We collected factual information regarding the lives of each personality unknown to the public. There are many stories that were a revelation to me.

KS: Did I get you right – do you mean to say that all facts about the people depicted in portraits are just exciting stories not directly associated with their ethnicity?

MN: No, these stories are not directly associated with their ethnicity. Well, speaking more precisely, some personalities do not have a close association with their ethnicity, but others do. For example, Golda Meir, whose professional activities were based on her Jewish self-identity. We are going to show many facts and interesting stories about her.

KS: Is this show a part of the exhibits launched by the Jewish Museum? What’s going to be the next?

MN: This show is not a part of a larger series, but I will always be focused on stories about people, otherwise it won’t be interesting. That’s one of the few things where I would agree with Andy Warhol – that dealing with people is very complicated.

Since 2013 Maria Nasimova has been the chief curator of the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center. She is co-founder and CEO of “Four Public. Creative Projects”. Before that, she worked as a project manager for different art institutions in Moscow. Maria studied at the Russian State University for Humanities (Moscow, Russia) and Goldsmiths (London, UK)

Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center

The Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow opened its doors in November 2012. The institution is dedicated to Jewish history and the advancement of social tolerance. This interactive museum and independent venue is open for discussions, workshops, lectures, round-tables, etc. The museum promotes the culture of social interaction and the prevention of xenophobia.

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