Uzbekistan: Art lovers create online catalog for Savitsky collection
The trio behind the project hope it will help prevent theft of artworks.
Art experts have begun assembling an online catalog of the collection at a museum in remote western Uzbekistan that holds one of the world’s most remarkable and improbable arrays of Soviet avant-garde paintings. The people behind the project hope it could help prevent theft of precious works.
The newly created website will also enable visitors to view paintings held by the Karakalpakstan State Museum of Art, which is better known simply as the Savitsky Museum.
Tashkent-based news website AsiaTerra reported that around 900 works are being made available for viewing online and that several hundred more are on the internal database of Alerte Héritage, an international nonprofit dedicated to preserving Central Asia’s artistic legacy.
The people behind the project have expressed frustration, however, that they are sorely under-resourced and understaffed.
“Three specialists — two art experts and one programmer — were involved in the practical preparation of the catalog,” an unnamed participant in the project told AsiaTerra. “If somebody in a government institute, with all their financial and administrative resources, had seriously dealt with this issue, it would have been resolved quickly. The absence of museum catalogs in this country after 25 years, in the virtual area, is the consequence of a lack of desire to create them.”
The project creators appealed to members of the public to get in contact with them if they spot incorrect information, typographical errors or inaccurate attribution in their catalog.
The Savitsky Museum was at the heart of an ugly scandal in 2015, when state television ran a report claiming that five paintings worth around $225,000 were missing from the museum and had been replaced with crude forgeries. Without naming her, state media strongly implied that long-time and much-respected museum director Marinika Babanazarova was somehow involved in purloining the works. Babanazarova, who was a close confidante of the collection’s founder, Igor Savitsky, was later fired.
Babanazarova’s defenders insisted that she was innocent of any such theft, but that misappropriation of artworks from government-owned museums is indeed a widespread problem in Uzbekistan. And as Alerte Héritage has argued, it is the lack of publicly available catalogs that makes the those thefts so easy to carry out.