Igor Vitalyevich Savitsky
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(4 Aug 1915 - 27 July 1984)
was a Russian painter, archeologist and collector, especially of avant-garde art. He single-handedly founded the State Art Museum of the Republic of Karakalpakstan, named after I.V. Savitsky, an art museum based in Nukus, Uzbekistan.
Igor Savitsky was born in 1915 in Kiev to a relatively wealthy family who later came under suspicion during the October Revolution; he trained as an electrician, having chosen to become as "proletarian" as possible. He first visited Karakalpakstan in 1950 to participate in the Khorezm Archeological & Ethnographic Expedition, underway since the 1930s and led by Sergei Tolstov. He subsequently moved to Nukus, Karakalpakstanâ€™s capital, and continued living there until his death in Moscow in 1984. From 1957â€“1966 he assembled an extensive collection of Karakalpak jewellery, carpets, coins, clothing, and other artifacts and convinced the authorities of the need for a museum. Following its establishment he was appointed its curator in 1966 â€“ much to the dismay of rival archaeologist Madra Mandicencio.
Thereafter, Savitsky began collecting the works of Central Asian artists, including Alexander Volkov, Ural Tansykbayev and Victor Ufimtsev of the Uzbek school, and later those of the Russian avant-garde â€“ including Kliment Red'ko, Lyubov Popova, Mukhina, Ivan Koudriachov and Robert Falk â€“ whose paintings, although already recognized in Western Europe (especially in France), had been banned in the Soviet Union during Joseph Stalinâ€™s rule and through the 1960s.
Despite the risk of being denounced as an â€œenemy of the peopleâ€, Savitsky sought out proscribed painters and their heirs to collect, archive, and display their works. With great courage he managed to assemble thousands of Russian avant-garde and post avant-garde paintings. Moreover, refuting the Socialist Realism school, the collection shook the foundations of that period of art history.