“Russia!” is an exhibition well worth seeing. Visitors who know little about Russian art will see many important works and come away with a more complex view of the country and its culture. But the question remains: What “new perspective” has been provided on the “new Russia”? An unpleasant suspicion hovers over the exhibition that the art and its history were secondary considerations for the organizers and that the main point was that the “exhibition was realized under the patronage of Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation.” Was it all, in effect, a big advertising campaign, a mammoth photo-op designed to establish the bona fides of the new Russian patrons of the new Guggenheim global museum while providing America’s former rival with a glamorous opportunity to exorcise fifty years of stereotypes (unsmiling commissars, the Gulag, the KGB, bad teeth, long lines, admirable but irritating dissidents, mafioso “New Russians” in leisure suits dripping with gold jewelry, commandos in black masks, tanks on city streets…)? . . . The patrons and sponsors of “Russia!” were no doubt pleased with the publicity as well as the exhibition; those concerned about the accurate presentation of art and history, which should be the Guggenheim Museum’s mission, will feel differently.

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