Black Square: Malevich and the Origins of Suprematism by Aleksandra Shatskikh (Translated by Marian Schwartz) - review by Rachel Polonsky

Rachel Polonsky

Total Eclipse of the Art

Black Square: Malevich and the Origins of Suprematism

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Yale University Press 346pp £25 order from our bookshop
 

Russian television, notorious for state propaganda, has its civilised side. A recent episode of the weekly debate show Cultural Revolution, hosted by Mikhail Shvydkoy (Vladimir Putin’s special envoy for international cultural cooperation), recently asked, ‘Is Malevich’s Black Square a Big Con?’ Almost a century since Kazimir Malevich first hung his canvas, icon-style, in the upper corner of the ‘Last Futurist Exhibition of Paintings 0.10’ in Petrograd in December 1915, this question still arouses feeling.

Facing an audience of artists, historians and museum curators, the distinguished film directors Andrei Konchalovsky and Alexander Mitta took opposing views. Black Square is not a work of art, Konchalovsky argued, waving printouts of Andy Warhol’s Dollar Sign and Damien Hirst’s shark in formaldehyde to illustrate his perfect agreement with

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