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The National: Soviet art for the everyman goes on display at Emirates Palace

​In Tatyana Kopnina’s painting Girls (1960), two youngsters, presumably sisters, lie on a bed looking at a picture book. One is in a red pinafore and pigtails, while the other, older, wears a lavender dress and lies on her stomach. Beyond them, one can see a vase of flowers on a round tabletop. It’s a scene of everyday intimacy – of real life.


It is also part of a remarkable collection of more than 120 works of Soviet art on display in Abu Dhabi’s Emirates Palace. Drawn from the Art Russe collection of the Russian billionaire Andrey Filatov, the exhibition, titled War and Peace, presents examples of the kind of painting and sculpture produced in the USSR from the 1930s onwards.


In the style known as Socialist Realism, these works extolled the beauty and value of life under socialism: scenes of domestic cosiness, workers at the factory, women in kerchiefs harvesting wheat and soldiers returning home from the front.


The effect includes its fair share of the anodyne and twee – but at its best, it communicates real enthusiasm and joy.


“It is the art I grew up with,” says Filatov, “And it is very dear to me.”


He began buying art in earnest about five years ago, and is one of the foremost collectors of Socialist Realism. The paintings and sculpture on show in the capital includes some of the style’s best-known pieces – the artwork that Russian schoolchildren see reproduced in their textbooks.


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