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Géopolitiques de la commémoration
Icônes culturelles

The “Andy Warhol” Millennium Show for Russia: Commemorating the Past, Celebrating the Present, and Looking Towards the Future

L’exposition du millénaire de l’œuvre d’Andy Warhol en Russie : Commémorer le passé, célébrer le présent et anticiper le futur
Elena Sidorova


Cet article traite de l’exposition du millénaire de l’œuvre d’Andy Warhol qui a eu lieu au Musée de l’Ermitage de Saint-Pétersbourg en 2000 et au Musée Pouchkine des Beaux-Arts de Moscou en 2001. Il explique d’abord pourquoi le gouvernement américain a organisé cette exposition dans le cadre des célébrations du millénaire à l’étranger et pourquoi il a choisi Andy Warhol comme un artiste du millénaire américain. Ensuite, il explique le contenu politique et artistique de l’exposition, ainsi que son accueil public par les médias russes et les professionnels de l’art russes. L’article en conclut que l’exposition du millénaire de l’œuvre d’Andy Warhol était, malgré son caractère diplomatique cérémonial et symbolique, un événement culturel révolutionnaire. L’exposition a réussi à familiariser le public russe avec des œuvres clés du pop art américain et, ainsi, à construire un pont « culturel » entre les États-Unis et la Russie à l’époque de l’après-guerre froide.

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1Culture played the role of a central ideological element during the Cold War (Immerman and Goedde, 2013). The contending powers sought to use national cultural achievements, ideas and persuasive communication tools “to rally, sustain and extend their respective blocs” and to bombard “one another’s home populations with messages to elicit political advantage” (Kalinovsky and Daigle, 2014, p. 323). From historian Gordon Johnston’s perspective, “there was no neat alignment between aesthetics and politics during the Cold War” because the accounts of the Cultural Cold War and histories of modernism understated or missed altogether the “modernism’s role in Central and Eastern Europe” (2010, p. 291). Johnston names four reasons for the rise in power of the cultural component during the Cold War. Firstly, it reflected a renewed interest in the issues of propaganda and psychological warfare. Secondly, it helped identify what ordinary people thought about the Cold War on both sides of the Atlantic. Thirdly, it explained the crisis of a common identity across the Soviet bloc. Fourthly, it contributed to the broader philosophical tradition of analyzing the cultural aspects of international relations.

2Unlike Johnston, French historian Alain Dubosclard offers a more complex explanation about why culture became a crucial element of U.S. foreign policy during the Cold War. From his perspective, no scholarly works about the place of culture in international relations had been written over the period between 1940 and 1945. At the same time, many European intellectuals were forced to flee from the Nazi Regime. The majority of these emigrants settled down in the U.S. and managed to “acculturize” (Dubosclard cited in Rolland, 2004, p. 177) the local elites in their new home country. Therefore, the U.S. occasionally turned into the global cultural and intellectual capital of the Western world. By realizing these unique historical circumstances and the country’s hugely underused cultural potential, the U.S. government decided to turn its most successful cultural industries into a separate element of the Cold War ideological struggle. Culture thus became “a key agent in planning for the possible extinction of communism through a war of global and devastating proportions” (Parry-Giles, 2002, p. 172).

3The role of American fine arts in the Cultural Cold War remains up until today at the outskirts of the academic research. Historian Michael Krenn argues that the unpopularity of American fine arts as a research object in the study of the Cultural Cold War is due to the fact that the U.S. government and American art lovers “were never able to discover a happy medium between art as art and art as propaganda” (2005, p. 4). According to historian John Curley, however, one should not neglect the role of fine arts in the Cultural Cold War because the Cold War per se was “a way of seeing the world” (2019, p. 10). In Curley’s opinion, “the visual qualities suggested by the phrase ‘ideological blindness’—a phrase that came into popular use at the very start of the Cold War, describing how rigid political beliefs can twist perception and interpretation in irrational ways—leads to a consideration of the importance of images, specifically art, to the conflict” (2019, p. 10).

4Abstract Expressionism was a key “(re-)source” of U.S. international cultural power during the Cold War because it suited best the political needs of the U.S. government to contain the Soviet “cultural offensive” (Barghoorn, 1960) in the bilateral system of international relations. Louis Menand, a staff writer at The New Yorker, has once ironically noted: “Was Jackson Pollock a weapon in the Cold War? There is a lot of barbed wire surrounding that question” (Menand, 2005). Indeed, Abstract Expressionism was the first distinctively “American” modern art movement built upon American cultural values and circumscribed into the American cultural policy landscape. As “the first American style of international renown”, it constituted “a decisive rite of passage” for the twentieth century American art and was instrumental to “generating an entire modern” post World-War-II American art establishment (Polcari, 1991, p. xvii). As a “weapon” of the Cultural Cold War, Abstract Expressionism transmitted to the world three crucial political messages about the American nation: it discredited the Soviet Marxist-Leninist ideology that did not recognize the freedom of artistic expression (Guilbaut, 1983); it emphasized the individualist-existential socio-political credo of American modern artists who shared the conviction that any sense of community should be avoided (Gibson, 1997); and it streamlined the idea of artistic labor as “the occasion of spontaneity or intense feeling” (Craven, 1999, p. 136) as opposed to the economic principles of industrial production that favored automation and technologism.

5Contrary to Abstract Expressionism, American Pop Art, another influential American twentieth century artistic movement, did not serve as America’s “weapon” of the Cultural Cold War due to its devotion to the vernacular products of American mass culture, which “was opposed to the European model of the struggling avant-garde artist which the abstract expressionists had emulated” (Fineberg, 2000, p. 250). Furthermore, American Pop Art, as an artistic movement, challenged the aesthetics of the “highbrow” art in terms of “connotations of rarity and hierarchical excellence” (Crow, 2014, p. viii). It was originally associated with the vernacular connoisseurship typical of folkloric genealogy. Under the influence of art critic Lawrence Alloway, who actually coined the term “Pop Art” in his famous article “The Arts and Mass Media” published in Architectural Record in February 1958, Pop Art came to mean “the mass-produced artifacts of daily life, no matter what their intrinsic aesthetic significance, might be transfigured on canvas and celebrated in galleries” (cited in Crow, 2014, p. viii). This definition of Pop Art is ambiguous, because it may provoke both positive and negative reactions. It diminishes Pop Art to the “lowbrow” art of commercial illustrations and advertisements, and, simultaneously, it enlarges the field of fine arts by declaring that commercial imagery may matter not less than “a masculine pride in flawless execution of advanced craft techniques” (Crow, 2014, p. viii). Since Pop Art could never be explicitly defined as the “highbrow” art, American Pop artists, being the “add-mass scene” (Amaya, 1965, p. 11) artists whose “stoke of genius was to have projected the machine in terms of ambiguity” (N. Calas and E. Calas, 1971, p. 116), could not enjoy large support on the part of the American art world and, as a consequence, the American government, for quite a long time. As art historian Sara Doris writes, “it was precisely the instantaneity of pop’s success that disturbed many critics: the art world seemed to be losing is rarefied isolation, succumbing to the faddish whims of consumer society” (2007, p. 107).

6From both cultural and economic standpoints, Andy Warhol is regarded as the most influential and successful American Pop artist. He is often called the “prince” (Greenberg and Jordan, 2004), “king” (Malott, 2013), and “pioneer” (Ford, 2001) of American Pop Art. Unlike Warhol, other famous American Pop artists, such as Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, or Roy Lichtenstein, have never been “crowned” with such a high-status title and have rarely experience similar commercial success. Lichtenstein, for example, used to say about Warhol: “I was an old-fashioned artist compared to him” (cited in Foster, 2012, p. 109). Despite Andy Warhol’s “academic popularity”, his contribution to the Cultural Cold War is a hugely understudied phenomenon (Sidorova, 2019). Some researchers briefly mention Warhol’s Pop Art in their study on the place of American Pop Art in U.S. Cold War cultural diplomacy (Krenn, 2005; Notaker, Scott-Smith and Snyder, 2016; Curley, 2019), while others refer to it in their research on the international geopolitics of American fine arts in the twentieth century (Dossin, 2015; Obadia, 2019). Our paper examines the first one-man show of Andy Warhol’s Pop Art in Russia—the “Andy Warhol” Millennium Show exhibited at the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg in 2000 and at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow in 2001. It first discusses why the U.S. government organized this show as part of America’s millennium celebrations abroad and why it chose Andy Warhol as America’s millennium artist. It then proceeds with explaining the political and art historical contents of the show, as well as its public reception by both the Russian media and the Russian “artworld”. From the methodological point of view, the paper represents a pluralist, mixed-methods research project, as it combines various methods of analysis, such as archival research (Frisch et. al., 2012), interview research (Mosley, 2013), and sociological approaches in the study of International Relations (Badie and Smouts, 1999; Balzacq and Ramel, 2013; Devin, 2016).

Andy Warhol – America’s Millennium Artist

7On 2 February 1998, President Bill Clinton signed the Executive Order 13072 that announced the formation of a council to recognize federal and state initiatives dedicated to the commemoration of America’s biggest accomplishments of the past and celebration of the nation’s possibilities of the future. By marking the new millennium, the White House Millennium Council sought to unite the American people with a renewed sense of optimism in the accomplishments and promise of the U.S. democratic tradition (White House Millennium Council Archives). According to the official documents, the Council’s mission was to “lead the country in a celebration of the new millennium by initiating and recognizing national and local projects that contribute in educational, creative, and productive ways to America’s commemoration of this historic time” (Federal Register of Executive Orders, 1998). To fulfil this ambitious goal symbolically called “Honor the Past—Imagine the Future”, the Millennium Council split its activities into eleven sections that had very concrete objectives and a clear institutional structure. The Council’s 11th section, in particular, laid ground for the international celebrations of U.S. greatest achievements of the previous millennium. As the official documents read, the Millennium Council ought to plan the millennium events abroad with the aim to “expand the opportunities for international communication and understanding” (Federal Register of Executive Orders, 1998) with other countries.

8Celebrating America’s millennium abroad was not an easy organizational task. Three major political actors took the lead in arranging U.S. international millennium celebrations on behalf of the Millennium Council. As President Clinton admits in his memoirs, the majority of the Council’s activities were conceived, planned and coordinated by the First Lady Hillary Clinton. According to Bill Clinton, “the millennium came to America with lots of celebration and no terror, a tribute to the hard work of thousands of people, and perhaps to a bit of luck as well” (Clinton, 2004). At the same time, from his perspective, his wife played a decisive role in making this event visible and valuable at the international level. Bill Clinton writes in his memoirs: “I honored Hillary for her leadership in the Millennium Project and in representing America so well over the world” (Clinton, 2004). The involvement of the President in the planning of U.S. international millennium celebrations demonstrates the historical significance of this political actor for U.S. cultural diplomacy. Actually, U.S. presidents got involved in the planning and organization of foreign cultural missions on behalf of the American national relatively recently. As historian Jessica Gienow-Hecht admits, until the end of World War II, cultural diplomacy had been the job of non-governmental institutions or the initiative of private individuals that “busily traveled on the international culture circuit” (cited in Osgood and Etheridge, 2010, p. 44). However, under the international political circumstances of the Cultural Cold War, all cultural initiatives undertaken under the patronage of the U.S. government got deliberately linked to “state control, political manipulation, and structural subordination, a side effect of hardcore geopolitical diplomacy, military treaties, and grand strategy” (Gienow-Hecht cited in Osgood and Etheridge, 2010, p. 31).

9Since the Council’s international agenda was considered an international event of high diplomatic value, it required the most active participation in it of the United States Information Agency—an American bureaucracy responsible for communicating with foreign publics during the Cold War. According to historian Nicholas Cull (2008), USIA’s activities embraced five key components: listening, advocacy, cultural diplomacy, exchange, and international broadcasting. As we can see, cultural diplomacy was one of USIA’s key prerogatives. The term “cultural diplomacy” officially entered into the U.S. diplomatic lexicon only in 1959, some six years after USIA’s establishment. In that year, two definitions of U.S. cultural diplomacy appeared almost simultaneously. The first definition was published in the Department of State’s pamphlet “Cultural Diplomacy” and stated that U.S. cultural diplomacy should be understood as “the direct and enduring contact between peoples of different nations” seeking to “help create a better climate of international trust and understanding in which official relations can operate” (cited in Gienow-Hecht and Donfried, 2010, p. 13). The second definition was formulated by the Special Assistant to the Secretary of State for the Coordination of International Educational and Cultural Relations Robert Thayer in the October 1959 issue of the Vital Speeches of the Day magazine (Vol. 25, No. 24, p. 740-744). Thayer wrote:

[F]oreign relationships are no longer relationships between government, or heads of state—foreign relationships are the relationship between people of all countries—and relationships between peoples are governed by the way people think and live, and eat, and feel and this represents the culture of a people; and so today we have in the forefront of the implementation of our foreign policy, CULTURAL DIPLOMACY, and to my mind the most important means of bringing complete mutual understanding between peoples, which in turns compels mutual understanding between governments. […] The objective of American cultural diplomacy is to create in the peoples of the world a perfect understanding of the life and culture of America (cited in Brown, 2016).

10In fact, the Millennium Council came to be USIA’s very last mission. USIA’s officers participated only in the selection of the projects to be included in the Council’s international program. In 1999, the USIA was dissolved as a relic of the Cultural Cold War. President Bill Clinton brought the deathblow to the USIA because he had to respond to the Senate’s request to cut down the U.S. government’s “unnecessary” spending on a range of “obsolete” foreign policy operations (Cull, 2012). Consequently, USIA’s officers who had worked meticulously on the organization of America’s millennium celebrations abroad for over a year could not supervise or exert control over their diplomatic efforts anymore.

11The abrupt dissolution of the USIA in the middle of the “millennium” preparations introduced involuntarily the third political actor, the Department of State, to the Council’s international section. In the post-Cold War American political lexicon, U.S. cultural diplomacy has been defined as “the exchange of ideas, information, art and other aspects of culture among nations and their peoples to foster mutual understanding” (Cummings, 2009). Contemporary U.S. cultural diplomacy programs run under the auspices of the U.S. Department of State (Zaharna, 2012) function as either a “one-way street” foreign policy initiative aiming to tell America’s cultural story to the rest of the world or “a two-way engagement that involves collaborative performances, mentoring or teaching, exchange of information, techniques, perspectives” (Schneider, 2009). As no international project of the Millennium Council ever mentioned the USIA as the organizer of the event, the Department of State alone was given a full credit for the effective organization of America’s millennium celebrations abroad. In reality, the Department of State got involved in the matter only in 2000, when the Council’s international program created by the USIA was ready to be implemented in practice. In terms of the institutional organization of cultural diplomacy in the U.S., the Millennium Council marked a symbolic institutional transition of U.S. cultural diplomacy into a new political era void of “old” cultural diplomacy practices, objectives and institutions.

12In total, the Council’s international program commemorating the new millennium included three types of events, all of which were conceived by USIA’s officer Caroline Croft. They were touring exhibitions on the art of Andy Warhol, Navajo textiles, NASA photography, and Duke Ellington; the tour of the newly restored classic American films; and the tours of the Millennium Cultural Ambassadors, such as Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Club, as well as the Paul Taylor Dance Company (Cull, 2012). By looking closely at the list of the Council’s international projects, we can come to two conclusions. On the one hand, we can see that all U.S. “millennium” cultural products destined for foreign publics, with an exception of Navajo textiles, were America’s cultural achievements of the last fifty years of the twentieth century. In other words, the composition of the Council’s international program was disproportionately biased towards the most recent time period of the history of the U.S., which illustrates both the relative “youth” of the American cultural heritage and the political importance of the Cultural Cold War. On the other hand, we can observe that the selection of U.S. “millennium” cultural offerings to be shown abroad put a certain emphasis on America’s global leadership in the area of the so-called “popular” culture (Bayles, 2014). By endorsing such distinctively “popular” cultural areas as Folk Art, Pop Art, photography, Jazz music, and Hollywood films, the U.S. government recognized American popular culture as part of U.S. cultural achievements of the previous millennium.

13Council’s cultural choice was quite original, as no other nation in the world had treated so far its popular culture arsenal as a highly valuable cultural invention of a century, saying nothing about the whole millennium. It is important to point out that the U.S. government started mixing “high” cultural diplomacy initiatives with the “popular” ones at the early stages of the Cultural Cold War. Ballet (Prevots, 1998) and classical music (Fosler-Lussier, 2015) attracted the greatest deal of U.S. cultural diplomats’ attention only in the early 1950s because “two of the strongest elements in the Soviet cultural arsenal were the classical works of great Russian composers and dance, particularly ballet” (Krenn, 2017, p. 102). While appealing only to the international “elite” public, ballet and classical music failed to communicate American cultural values to the international “mass” audiences. Hence, the late Eisenhower and the early Kennedy presidential administrations discovered that the more “popular” forms of American culture could be a more far-reaching cultural diplomacy tool. Gradually, Jazz music (Davenport, 2009), Hollywood films (Shaw, 2007), TV (Schwoch, 2008), and sport (Dichter and Johns, 2014) became a staple of U.S. cultural diplomacy programs. Such a combination of “high” and “popular” cultural forms in U.S. cultural diplomacy persisted throughout the remaining years of the Cultural Cold War. The unification of two different levels of American culture emphasized a large scope of America’s creativity and the country’s commitment to the freedom of thought and artistic expression. This strategy was also efficient as the Soviet government did not recognize Soviet “folk culture” products, except sport, as a decent cultural diplomacy tool (Nagornaya, 2018).

14The focus on “popular geopolitics” (Dittmer, 2010) in U.S. millennium celebrations abroad was the main reason why Andy Warhol, who always manifested an unprecedented “taste for pop” (Whiting, 1997), was endorsed as America’s millennium artist. The “popular” nature of Warhol’s art embraced two key components. On the one hand, Warhol created “an aesthetic of the non-selectivity encouraged by media advertising” (Fineberg, 2000, p. 252). By letting everything in at once, instead of being selective, the artist “celebrated the sameness of mass culture that intellectuals of the abstract expressionist generation abhorred” (Fineberg, 2000, p. 252). At the same time, Warhol’s choice of “non-selective” subject matters was not arbitrary. Through making “the representation of a thing the reality in itself”, he divorced the signifier from the signified, in terms of Semiotics, and thus destabilized the fixed notions of the real, “making reality contingent on any number of fluctuating conditions” (Fineberg, 2000, p. 250). In such a way, the artist sought to close down a gap between art and life and between fine arts and other forms of artistic expression. In Warhol’s words, Pop Art was “a fade” (cited in Goldsmith, 2004, p. 23). In terms of art critic Arthur Danto, “as the 1960s progressed, the testing of cultural boundaries became the defining project of the decade” (2009, p. 31). Pop Art was “the cracking of the spirit of Modernism, and the beginning of the Postmodern era in which we live in” (Danto, 2009, 31). Unlike the Abstract Expressionist painting, “where meanings were personal and arcane, and expressed through pigment so energetically brushed, dripped, or splashed across large expanses of canvas that viewers were left with little to say in response except, “Wow!”, there was not much to say in front of the Pop painting, as “everyone knew what it was about” (Danto, 2009, p. 27).

15Apart from choosing “non-selective” subject matters, Warhol, on the other hand, promoted the mechanical way of making art. He admitted: “The reason I’m painting this way is that I want to be a machine, and I feel that whatever I do and do machine-like is what I want to do” (cited in Goldsmith, 2004, p. 18). Indeed, Warhol relied increasingly on assistants to produce his artworks. As the chief editor of Warhol’s Interview magazine Bob Colacello would later recall, “for Andy, modern meant mechanical—silkscreen, movie camera, tape recorder, video, any machine that came between the creator and his audience” (Colacello, 1990, p. 7). This technique “appealed to Andy conceptually because it seemed modern and real, two qualities he consistently valued above all others” (Colacello, 1990, p. 7). Unwilling to create art manually, Warhol discovered the silkscreen technique that created the mechanically detached images and eliminated “all vestiges of the artist’s touch” (Fineberg, 2000, p. 253). Besides, by creating serial and repetitive compositions, Warhol “made a style of his non-involvement” by turning the images he painted into “anonymous patterns”, which created “an expressive dissonance between the machine-like façade and the sense of the individual buried within it” (Fineberg, 2000, p. 253).

The Warhol Show for Russia: Political and Cultural Contents

  • 1 Interview with Staff of the Director’s Office, The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, Conducted on 4 A (...)

16As we have pointed it out earlier in the article, despite the fact that the USIA did most of the work in the organization of this exhibition, the official credit for making this seminal event possible was given to the Department of State. To be more precise, it was the Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs that took control over the execution of the exhibition. Nevertheless, the Bureau alone was not capable of organizing Warhol’s millennium show on its own. It invited the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh to participate in the organization of the exhibition. The Bureau and the Warhol Museum divided their organizational duties in the following way. The Bureau was responsible for the selection of the countries where the exhibition was supposed to be sent. The Warhol Museum had an exclusive responsibility to mount the contents of the exhibition. The Bureau’s delegation of some of the decision-making power to the Warhol Museum was inevitable. As the Bureau did not employ the diplomatic corps proficient in the art historical issues, it could not develop the contents of the exhibition on its own. In addition, the U.S. government-run museums, such as The Smithsonian Institution or The National Gallery of Art, did not possess (and still do not) any significant collections of Warhol’s art sufficient to mount a comprehensive one-man show. The Warhol Museum was an ideal choice for such a partnership. It was a relatively young institution that was trying to acquire more visibility both inside the U.S. and abroad. Moreover, it possessed (and still does) the largest public collection of Warhol’s art in the world, which meant that it had a great selection of Warhol’s artworks to choose from. At the organizational level, the Bureau and the Warhol Museum had a “silent” agreement between each other: the Museum did not modify the exhibition itinerary proposed by the Bureau, whereas the Bureau did not modify the exhibition contents proposed by the Museum1.

17The “Andy Warhol” millennium show was exhibited in two Russian cities: first in Saint Petersburg (The State Hermitage Museum, 3 October–28 November 2000) and then in Moscow (The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, 22 May–1 July 2001). In political terms, the millennium exhibition of Warhol’s Pop Art was supposed not only to make an elegant tribute to the past issue of the Cold War bipolar confrontation between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, but also to anticipate the need for the “restart” of U.S. cultural diplomacy in this region under the renewed international political circumstances. Not surprisingly, the scope of the U.S.-Soviet artistic exchange had been extremely limited during the Cold War. In spite of the presence of certain artistic ties across the Iron Curtain, mainly by means of U.S. national exhibitions (Masey and Morgan, 2008), a regular exchange of ideas and information between U.S. and Soviet artists, art professionals and art institutions did not take place. A retired U.S. foreign officer Yale Richmond characterizes the state of the U.S.-Soviet museum exchange at the final stages of the Cold War in the following terms:

Another high-visibility activity that attracted large numbers of viewers in both countries was the exchange of art exhibitions between U.S. and Soviet museums. The major partners to these exchanges, which began in the mid-1970s during détente, were the Metropolitan Museum and the National Gallery of Art on the U.S. side, and the State Hermitage and Pushkin Museums on the Soviet side. Museum exchanges were given a further boost in 1975 when the Metropolitan Museum and the Soviet Ministry of Culture signed an agreement for an exchange of five exhibitions on each side during the following years. As the exchanges developed, some of the Soviet exhibitions were also shown at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and other American museums. Working relations were also established between museums of the two countries that involved exchanges of personnel as well as artistic material (2003, p. 135).

18As it follows from Richmond’s observations, the character of the U.S.-Soviet museum exchange was limited to a small number of participating institutions and had an occasional and irregular agenda. Taken this fact into consideration, we can regard the “Andy Warhol” millennium show as an attempt to deepen U.S. cultural ties with Russia during the Yeltsin presidency (1991-1999). At the same time, given the larger diplomatic context of U.S.-Russia bilateral relations in the 1990s that centered around such international issues as NATO’s expansion, Kosovo, arms control and missile defense, and Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission on Economic and Technical Cooperation, Warhol’s exhibition alone was very unlikely to significantly improve the U.S.-Russia cooperation across cultural lines. In the opinion of scholar Kari Roberts, “Presidents Yeltsin and Clinton made efforts to sustain an open and cooperative dialogue between the two nations, but each faced domestic political opposition to this initiative” (cited in Tsygankov, 2019, p. 239). A prominent American diplomat Zbigniew Brzezinski summarized the “love-hate” nature of U.S. foreign policy towards Russia in the 1990s as such: “For America, Russia is much too weak to be a partner but still too strong to be simply its patient. It is more likely to become a problem, unless America fosters a setting that helps to convince the Russians that the best choice for their country is an increasingly organic connection with a transatlantic Europe” (1997, p. 118).

  • 2 Interview with Staff of the Marketing and Communications Office, The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh (...)

19Contrary to its “emotional” diplomatic context (Graham, 2014), Warhol’s millennium show transmitted to the Russian audience valuable art historical knowledge about American Pop Art. According to the official press release, the exhibition presented 55 artworks that were representative of Warhol’s work over a forty-year career and included, among others, some of his more memorable images—Marilyn Monroe, Campbell Soup Cans, Mao Tse-Tung—and other artworks that “uniquely captured the tenor of his times” (United States Department of State, 2000). At the same time, as stated in the official exhibition catalogue (Babin, 2000), the exhibition included 64 Warhol’s artworks. A relatively narrow size of Warhol’s millennium exhibition was due to one extremely important factor, namely, the high insurance cost of Warhol’s artworks sent to the countries that did not have stable political-economic ties with the U.S. For the Andy Warhol Museum’s staff responsible for the organization of Warhol’s millennium exhibition, the probability of certain artworks not returning to the U.S. after the exhibition was extremely high. The Museum considered Russia and the former Soviet countries as a politically unstable region. That’s why the Warhol Museum insisted on the extra insurance of Warhol’s artworks it lent for the exhibition2. Due to the Department of State’s budget constraints and because of the extra insurance costs demanded by the Andy Warhol Museum, the Bureau could not afford a big millennium exhibition of Warhol’s art.

20Despite a relatively limited size, the millennium show presented Warhol’s Pop Art in a concise but effective way. The exhibition was subdivided into five thematic groups. The first group of artworks comprised Warhol’s paintings and graphic works. It showcased such iconic Warhol’s series as Death and Disasters, Electric Chairs, Coca-Cola Bottles, Sculls, Knives, Crosses, Hammer and Sickle, as well as Self-Portraits and portraits of Jacky Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe and Mao Zedong. A key function of this group of artworks was to raise the issue of aesthetics of serial compositions typical of Warhol’s Pop Art (Bippus, 2003). Actually, seriality, as the term used in relation to art, took its meaning from its currency in the 1960s American art movements, like Pop Art, Conceptual Art, and Minimalism. Before the 1960s, the terms “seriality” and “aesthetics” had canceled each other as an impossible contradiction. Art critic Mel Bochner provided some of the best explanations of the phenomenon of serial art in his 1967 essay called “The Serial Attitude”. Bochner distinguishes between seriality as an artistic method from the principle of working in series. From his perspective, series denote “a characteristically modernist and compositional process”, whereas serial art is “anti-compositional and opened onto a different time-field” (cited in Fer, 2004, p. 3).

21The second group of artworks featured Warhol’s prints. At the example of Campbell’s Soup Cans, After the Party and Dollar Signs, it explained the main principles of Warhol’s silkscreening technique and emphasized the mechanical way of production of American Pop Art. Silkscreens revealed that Warhol’s “method” of producing art was “mechanical” per se and showed that the “pristine artificial clarity” of Warhol’s art was preceded by “various mechanized processes of creative manipulation involving transfers, copies, projections, impressions, and repetitions” (Lebrero Stals, 2018, p. 14). Furthermore, silkscreens stressed out that Warhol’s “mechanical” Pop Art was impersonal in the sense that it did not show the intimate contact between the artist and his work, but, instead, offered the projected image of the artist’s self-representation that was “so distant while so much on public display” (Lebrero Stals, 2018, p. 15).

22The third group of artworks revealed Warhol’s collaborations with other artists. In particular, it stressed out Warhol’s close artistic ties with the Italian artist Francesco Clemente. The choice of Clemente was rather interesting. In the majority of cases, speaking about Warhol’s collaborations with other artists, the first name art curators usually name is Jean-Michel Basquiat. Cases of Warhol’s collaborations with other artists are not well known to larger audiences. The exhibition’s emphasis on Clemente was an occasion to reconsider the character of Warhol’s late collaborative projects with American and European artists and to present Warhol as a mentor and an idol of the artists of younger generations. Nevertheless, as art historian Dieter Buchhart admits, Warhol’s artistic collaborations “did not develop from a close artistic relationship, but at the initiative of [Warhol’s art dealer] Bruno Bischofberger” (2012, p. 122). Warhol’s openness to working in several media that overcame the traditional lines separating individual artistic disciplines and cultural practices “prepared the ground for this almost natural acceptance of collaborative work” (Buchhart, 2012, p. 123).

23The fourth group of artworks was dedicated to Warhol’s mother Julia Warhola. The functional role of this section was to remind the Russian public of the artist’s immigrant background and Slavic ethnic roots. As the artist used to say, “I come from nowhere” (cited in Higgins and Germanova, 2018). In fact, Warhol’s parents were emigrants from a small Carpathian village Mikova in Austria-Hungary (today’s Slovakia). They were representatives of the so-called Ruthenian minority that historically lived unrecognized in different countries of the Eastern Europe due to their Greek Catholic religious background and the Rusyn language (Davis, 1922; Magocsi, 2015). Although Warhol rarely put forward his Ruthenian identity in his Pop Art, this detail from Warhol’s biography accidentally garnered great political value at the turn of the centuries. Julia Warhola’s portraits implicitly tackled two political issues: they demonstrated the virtues of America as a multicultural “melting pot” nation open to immigrants from all over the world (Gjelten, 2016) and they subtly emphasized the lack of an effective system for the promotion and protection of human and minority rights in the contemporary Russia (Snyder, 2018).

24The fifth group of artworks featuring BMW cars from the Cars series exposed Warhol’s take on American consumer culture. Art historian Christin Mamiya (1992) singles out three directions in which Warhol tackled the issue of consumerism in his art broadly speaking. Firstly, Warhol depicted the power of corporations and the imperative to consume they imposed on the society. Secondly, Warhol showed the double nature of the mass media. On the one hand, he presented the media as an independent entity that provided avenues for product placements. On the other hand, he satirized the dependence of the media on advertising for revenue. This conflict, according to Warhol, shed light on why the survival of the mass media was intrinsically bound to the reinforcement of the ideology of consumerism and, vice versa, why corporations spent billions of dollars on advertising in the hope to introduce their products to the largest possible audience. Thirdly, Warhol denounced the cult of domesticity in the era of pre-digestion, which stood for “a world of mediated or second-hand experience” (Mamiya, 1992, 113). For Warhol, this new era marked by the development of corporate organizations, expanding social and geographical mobility, technological developments, and the growth of a national market economy made the traditional Protestant ethic untenable and outdated. In an increasingly impersonal society, the imperative of self-fulfillment characterized by the frequency of participation in the process of consumption became the most admirable means of self-realization.

25In sum, the thematic scope of Warhol’s millennium show embraced only some of key problematic fields that the artist had dealt with throughout his artistic career. For example, the exhibition did not include such iconic Warhol’s series as Flowers, Most Wanted Men, Race Riots, Ladies and Gentlemen, The American Indian, or Animal Portraits. At the same time, taken together, all Warhol’s artworks featured in the millennium show communicated one particular art historical message to the Russian public: they aimed to change the attitude of the Russian public towards American Pop Art, which, in the times of the Cold War, had not had a positive reputation in the Soviet society. In fact, in the Soviet times, the critical literature on American modern and contemporary art had been largely inaccessible to Soviet art historians (Avramov, 2012). Quite evidently, because of the propaganda barriers, Soviet art historians could not leave any positive feedback on American artists who had not been compassionate with the Soviet political regime (Chunikhin, 2016). In this respect, the most “favorite” American artist among Soviet art historians had been a Realist painter Rockwell Kent who had visited the Soviet Union a number of times and had even managed to receive the International Lenin Peace Prize in 1966 (Bailey, 2017). Otherwise, Soviet art historians had not welcomed the artistic values of American avant-garde art. A number of Soviet art critics had written different studies of American Pop Art (Sibirjakov, 1969; Turchin, 2003). For example, a famous Soviet art critic Mikhail Lifshitz had characterized Warhol’s Pop Art in his book The Crisis of Ugliness as such:

Michelangelo, who imitated nature in his creations, made them by the sweat of his brow. Andy Warhol only bought a readymade soup can. The greatest work of Pop Art of all, said that modern master recently, is our planet Earth. That is a pithy statement. However, the planet Earth already exists, and there is no reason to create it anew. It is enough to separate this funny object from its “customary context” or to look at it from the height of a detached “intellectual position”. Under this transformative condition, it gains a second meaning and already becomes a work of art. Thus, art’s great secret is to lead the simple life of a philistine, repressing its own indignation against such a life with the aid of special techniques of superconsciousness. Pop Art did not invent this technique but only brought it to the point of total clarity. This is why it is only ridiculous when the defenders of abstract art complain about artistic life’s infestation by soup cans, refrigerators, plastic products bought in the shop next door at standard prices, or old pots and pans. This is not the right material to foster the emergence of true beauty […] (Lifshitz, translated by Riff, 2018, p. 129).

26The objection of Soviet art historians to American Pop Art had not been their personal choice. Such a negatively biased attitude “belonged to a broader critique of what [Soviet] ideologues called the “decadence” of the West, a word that signaled the abandonment of the uplifting role of culture in favor of base and selfish pleasures” (Morgan and Frigeri, 2015, p. 29). Paradoxically enough, the Soviet government had criticized American Pop Art along the same cultural-political lines as the U.S. government had done it. Despite the fact that both nations had been standing on the opposite ideological sides of the Iron Curtain, they both had characterized the American Pop painting as “lowbrow” and unduly primitive. According to historian David Caute, “one main difficulty in promoting Western avant-garde art resided in the fact that modernist painting and sculpture was almost as much disliked and distrusted by the Western public as by the Soviet” (2003, p. 541). As Caute ironically points out, “powerful academies and associations in the West were as loud in their warnings against the subversive advance of modernism as were their state-sanctioned counterparts in the USSR, and indeed the expletive “decadent” was heard on both sides of the Iron Curtain” (2003, p. 541).

Russian Public Opinion and American Pop Art

27To make Warhol’s millennium show more appealing to the Russian audience, the Bureau and the Andy Warhol Museum issued both the official press release and a small brochure that accompanied the exhibition catalogue. Speaking in the name of the Andy Warhol Museum’s director Thomas Sokolowski, both documents aimed to motivate the international public to visit the exhibition. Sokolowski named three reasons for which Warhol’s millennium show was supposed to be a must-see event. Firstly, Sokolowski called Warhol a “quintessential artist” who was the “mirror of his time” (United States Department of State, 2000). In his opinion, no other artist managed to capture the contemporary American spirit as Warhol did. Secondly, Sokolowski stressed out the art historical importance of the exhibition for the countries of the former Eastern bloc that had very little art historical knowledge about American Pop Art in general and Andy Warhol in particular. He pointed out: “We are proud to present this great American genius to the people who previously may only have had access to his art through reproduction” (United States Department of State, 2000). Thirdly, Sokolowski claimed that Warhol was not just a prominent modern American artist, he was an embodiment of the American dream: by looking at Warhol’s art, people could understand the core values of the American national spirit. For him, getting to know Andy Warhol meant learning to some extent the fundamentals of the American civilization. As Sokolowski put it:

Andy Warhol is arguably the most important American cultural figure of the second half of the twentieth century; arguably, that is, if he is considered only as a painter. To understand the man as well as to correctly assess his contribution to world culture, Warhol must be seen as a chronicler, an anthropologist, a museologist of the first order, a collector par excellence, a musical entrepreneur, a magazine publisher, a graphic designer, and the shrewdest documentarian of his times. As the child of Depression-era, Eastern European immigrants, Warhol learned early on that to survive he needed to understand, navigate, and then to categorize the rules by which the world worked. His art represents the results of this lifelong study (2000, page unnumbered).

  • 3 Interview with U.S. Foreign Service Officer, Washington D.C., Conducted on 17 April 2017.

28All in all, the Russian public perceived Warhol’s millennium show as a new cultural experience3. At the turn of the centuries, Russians had very little knowledge about the basic ideas of Warhol’s Pop Art. Due to the limited scope of the American-Soviet Cold War cultural exchange and because of the U.S. government’s uneasy relation with American Pop artists, Warhol’s name was not familiar to the overwhelming majority of the Russian public. At the same time, some select Russian citizens had a little bit of a distant knowledge about Warhol’s Pop Art. For example, Warhol’s fan from Leningrad Eugen Ruchin wrote this lovely letter to the artist on 1 January 1967:

Dear Mr. Warhol:
I am sorry bothering you [sic]. I have see some of your works [sic]. There are Wonderfool! [sic] I am eager to know more about you. I am interesting in your planes and last works [sic]. I am eager to have a catalogs from you [sic]. I am a painter. It would be great pleasure for me if you visit Leningrad [sic]. Pleas write me what can I send for you? [sic]. Excuse pleas my bad Englich [sic] (Andy Warhol Museum Archives).

  • 4 Interview with Curatorial Staff, The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow, Russia, Conducted o (...)

29Before the millennium show, Warhol’s work had been exhibited in Russia twice. Warhol’s very first appearance in Soviet Russia took place in 1977-1978, when the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow showed the Late 19th-20th Century American Painting exhibition (12 December 1977–8 August 1978)4 that presented the evolution of American fine arts from the American Civil War to the present time. In fact, the Pushkin Museum played the role of hosting institution that merely provided the exhibition space for this exhibition. The actual organizer of the Late 19th-20th Century American Painting exhibition was the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The original concept of the exhibition belonged to art curator Henry Geldzahler. In 1965, he mounted the American Painting in the Twentieth Century exhibition for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The exhibition was so successful that the museum decided to circulate it abroad. Aiming to make the story about the evolution of American art more ample and complete for the international public, Geldzahler modified slightly the original contents of his exhibition. In particular, he added the sections on the late 19th century American art that revealed the state of American art before the arrival of modernism to the U.S. and American Pop Art that emphasized the achievements of American artists after Abstract Expressionism. Andy Warhol was one of seven Pop artists (together with Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, James Rosenquist, Tom Wesselmann, and Larry Rivers) whom Geldzahler included in the show. Geldzahler’s selection of Warhol’s artworks for the Metropolitan’s international show focused on two subject matters for which the artist was famous: consumerism (Green Coca Cola Bottles, 1962) and popular culture icons (Marilyn, 1964; Elvis I and II, 1964).

30The Late 19th-20th Century American Painting exhibition (Kuznetsova and Bessonova, 1980) was not part of the U.S.-Soviet “official” cultural exchange supported by the respective governments. Instead, it pertained to the so-called U.S.-Soviet “informal” diplomacy (Newsom, 1987) carried out by citizens or private institutions. For some unknown reasons, the majority of the organizational details pertaining to this exhibition are hidden from the public’s eyes or completely absent from the museum’s archives. We tend to think that since this exhibition was not sanctioned “officially” by the Soviet government, the Pushkin Museum may have been afraid of creating too much publicity around to avoid censorship or even cancellation of the show. It is curious that the Pushkin Museum published the exhibition catalogue of Late 19th-20th Century American Painting only in 1980, namely two years after the exhibition had actually taken place. This situation is not typical for the Russian/Soviet museology. Normally, Russian museums, like their European and American counterparts, publish exhibition catalogues on the eve of certain exhibitions. Moreover, the turnover of the exhibition catalogue of Late 19th-20th Century American Painting was extremely limited—only 2500 copies. This low number suggests that the Pushkin Museum did not plan to sell this publication in bookstores and make the exhibition details available to the broader Russian public.

  • 5 Unfortunately, we cannot provide more information about Late 19th-20th Century American Painting be (...)

31Instead, the curators at the Pushkin Museum tried to keep all the information about this exhibition in the shadow of the “mass” public attention. For example, the Sovetskaya Kultura newspaper, which was the most powerful “cultural” media outlet back in the Soviet times, published the article announcing the exhibition’s opening only three weeks after the actual exhibition’s opening. On 6 January 1978, the newspaper wrote briefly that the exhibition showed the American life and the American national character in a historical perspective (Gazeta Kultura Archives). It stressed out the role of the Metropolitan Museum of Fine Arts in mounting this show, but did not precise either the artists or artworks included in the exhibition. Furthermore, it is worth mentioning that this article was published on the very last page together with the articles dedicated to the regional cultural development in the Soviet Union. Such secondary media coverage of American culture is not typical of the Soviet press. As we can guess, Warhol’s first appearance in Russia was left largely unnoticed because the Russian public was simply unaware about the existence of Late 19th-20th Century American Painting5.

  • 6 Before becoming an ardent proponent and international promoter of the Soviet rock music, Stingray w (...)
  • 7 The ASSA gallery was no art gallery in its traditional sense. As the Soviet government banned all p (...)

32The second attempt to introduce Warhol’s Pop Art to the Russian public had an informal character. A key role in this affair should be attributed to the American singer Joanna Stingray. In 1984, she visited the Soviet Union for the first time and met the stars of the Leningrad Rock music scene, who, in turn, were closely connected to the Leningrad Non-Conformist artistic circles (Brown and Taylor, 1993, p. 196-204). Stingray got interested in the work of the Leningrad Non-Conformist artists and decided to show some of their works to Andy Warhol whom she knew in person6. In the late 1985, Stingray brought Warhol two artworks as a gift from the Leningrad artists: E-E by Oleg Kotelnikov and A City by Timur Novikov. Warhol’s reaction to these two artworks was quite original. Warhol decided to thank Leningrad Non-Conformist artists by sending them his own artworks in return. The most precious among Warhol’s gifts, all of which he signed personally, were a portrait of Marilyn Monroe, a canvas image of Campbell’s Soup, a pack of real Campbell’s soup cans, and Warhol’s Philosophy (Warhol Week in Moscow Archives). The ASSA art gallery7 demonstrated Warhol’s gifts to the Leningrad public in the early 1986. Yet, the effect of this exhibition was extremely limited because of its unofficial character. Due to the artificial cultural domination of Socialist Realism in the Soviet Union, the majority of the Soviet public had no idea about the existence of alternative artistic movements at all. For this reason, the second attempt to introduce Warhol’s Pop Art to the Russian public was also largely unnoticed at a national scale. Moreover, the poetics of the “gifts” diplomacy between Stingray, Warhol and Leningrad underground artists should not be over-romanticized either, as it omitted two other important actors of the Soviet underground art scene—Sots Art (Khidekel, 1998) and Moscow Non-Conformist artists (Backstein, 2010).

33Even though the artistic and socio-political foundations of Warhol’s Pop Art had not been communicated well to the Russian public during the Cold War, the “Andy Warhol” millennium show received due attention in the Russian mass media. For example, Oleg Torchinsky of the Moskovskaya Pravda wrote on 26 June 2001 that the exhibition was a true homage to the 1960s American culture (Warhol Week in Moscow Archives). In his opinion, Warhol was a recognized master of American Pop Art and the millennium show was a good occasion to get to know the complexity of his art in a historical perspective. At the same time, as Torchinsky pointed out in his article, Warhol’s millennium show was obsolete in two respects: the exhibition’s subject was not “critical” and the exhibition’s contents focused exclusively on the post-factum recognition of Warhol’s artistic genius saying nothing about his early struggle for fame and success.

34Echoing Oleg Torchinsky, Ekaterina Degot of the Afisha wrote on 28 May 2001 that Warhol’s millennium show focused on the symbolic representation of Warhol’s Pop Art (Warhol Week in Moscow Archives). From her viewpoint, by making Warhol the “collective image” of America’s twentieth century visual culture, the curators of the exhibition failed to show Warhol’s personality traits and inner character. As Degot pointed out, the millennium show presented Warhol as a “currency” on the contemporary art market and as an economic benchmark of artistic excellency leaving behind some controversial aspects of the artist’s artistic values and personality traits. At the same time, Warhol’s millennium exhibition had a great cultural value for Russia: it introduced the local public to something that they had never experienced before and somebody whom they had barely heard about.

35Another curious article about Warhol’s millennium show was published in the Kommersant Vlast’ magazine on 29 May 2001 (Warhol Week in Moscow Archives). The article written by Fedor Romer claimed that the exhibition emphasized that Warhol attacked the Russian cultural values at two levels. Firstly, he suggested that by promoting the ideals of American capitalism through his art, Warhol betrayed the principle of a Russian artist’s resistance against the commissioned work. Secondly, he argued that by depicting the repetitive images of American popular culture icons and media stars, Warhol challenged the definition of art as a process of communication of personal emotions occurred in an intimate context. Romer’s article did not mean to provoke a conflict around Warhol’s exhibition. On the contrary, it sought to draw the reader’s attention to the fact that there was still a huge mentality gap between the American and Russian people. Romer was positive about the exhibition and invited his readers to visit this event that was seen as contributing to the Russians’ cultural education.

36Alongside with the Russian press, Russian art professionals also paid a “local” tribute to Warhol’s millennium show by organizing two originally unplanned side events. The first side event was the Warhol Symposium that took place at the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg on 30-31 October 2000 and later at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow on 30-31 May 2001. Due to the presence of American diplomats at the symposium, its program was too “official” and did not leave room for informal discussions, which made the event less attractive for Russian art critics and the general Russian audience (Warhol Week in Moscow Archives). The second side event was the Warhol Russian Week that run from 28 May to 3 June 2001 and accompanied the opening of Warhol’s millennium show in Moscow. It was a sort of the “Russian answer” to the Warhol symposium organized by the American embassy. The central element of this Week was the Warhol Connections exhibition put together by the Marat Guelman Gallery (Warhol Week in Moscow Archives). Guelman’s side exhibition sought to show a difference between the Soviet Non-Conformist artists who borrowed ideas from Warhol’s Pop Art and the ones who offered similar ideas but never copied Warhol directly. Both the Warhol Symposium and the Warhol Russian Week can be regarded as historical testimonies of a thoughtful attitude of the Russian public towards Warhol’s artistic achievements in the early 2000s.


37Regardless of its ceremonial and symbolic character, the “Andy Warhol” Millennium Show for Russia appeared to be a “constructive” (Fortner, 1994) diplomatic event “charged with emotional energy and (strategically devisable) cognitive content” (Pacher, 2018, p. 880). The show marked a new era in the presence of Warhol’s Pop Art in major Russian cultural institutions. For instance, in 2005, the Tretiakov Gallery hosted Warhol’s second Russian solo retrospective organized by the Andy Warhol Museum with the financial support of the Pittsburgh-based Alcoa Corporation. In 2014, the Jewish Museum showed the Ten Jews of the Twentieth Century exhibition that featured one of several existing portfolios of ten Warhol’s prints of the most remarkable Jewish personalities of the previous century borrowed from Len Blavatnik’s private art collection. In 2017, the Darwin Museum put together the Andy Warhol: The Endangered Species exhibition that opened the Year of Ecology in Russia. In 2018, Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup series was the headliner of the If Our Soup Can Could Speak…Mikhail Lifshitz and the 1960s in the Soviet Union exhibition organized by the Garage Museum. In 2019, Warhol’s Self-Portraits were one of the most thought-after artworks featured in the Collection of La Fondation Louis Vuitton: Highlights exhibition shown at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts. In 2020, the Artists Union of Russia organized a huge exhibition It’s Me, Andy Warhol at the New Treatiakov Gallery that featured around 200 Warhol’s works and some installations of The Factory—Warhol’s legendary studio in New York.

38Besides conveying new art historical knowledge about American Pop Art to the Russian public, the “Andy Warhol” Millennium Show also made an attempt to invite both American and Russian diplomats to “upgrade” the bilateral U.S.-Russia cultural relations to a more advanced level of exchange and cooperation. The establishment of a profound U.S.-Russian cultural dialogue seems to remain an uneasy task (Stent, 2014). In the words of scholar Kari Roberts, since the contemporary Russian foreign policy towards the U.S. is influenced “by its leadership and by its diminishing global status”, the record of U.S.-Russia bilateral relations remains “mixed”: a periodic convergence of interests enables “some accomplishments”, whereas “long-standing irritants” polarize the relationship (cited in Tsygankov, 2019, p. 250-251). Indeed, the most visible joint U.S.-Russian cultural diplomacy event that followed Warhol’s millennium exhibition was the 2007 celebration of the Bicentennial of U.S.-Russian diplomatic relations (Hamilton, 2007). Otherwise, the legal and conceptual frameworks of the U.S.-Russian artistic exchange continue to be shaky and uncertain. In 2010, the Russian government completely forbid the loan of artworks, art objects and antiquities from Russian public museums to all U.S. museums. This decision accompanied the official refusal of the Russian government to pass the library of the Orthodox Jewish rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson nationalized by Bolsheviks in the early Soviet times over to the U.S. Jewish organization “Chabad” (Stapley-Brown, 2019). Unlike U.S. and Russian cultural diplomats, art professionals in both the U.S. and Russia do not give up the idea to revitalize the U.S.-Russia artistic exchange. For example, in February 2019, the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg organized a joint seminar on the topic of the prospects of the U.S.-Russia museum exchange. The heads of these museums, Glenn Lowry and Mikhail Piotrovskiy respectively, expressed the hope that cultural institutions in both countries would eventually find a way to cooperate with one another (Hermitage News, 2019). In the opinion of the Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation on International Cultural Cooperation Mikhail Shvydkoi, the future of U.S.-Russia cultural relations depends largely on the wish of the political leadership in both the U.S. and Russia to build, maintain and develop cultural contacts independently from other spheres of U.S.-Russia bilateral relations (2019).

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1 Interview with Staff of the Director’s Office, The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, Conducted on 4 April 2017.

2 Interview with Staff of the Marketing and Communications Office, The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, Conducted on 5 April 2017.

3 Interview with U.S. Foreign Service Officer, Washington D.C., Conducted on 17 April 2017.

4 Interview with Curatorial Staff, The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow, Russia, Conducted on 1 March 2017.

5 Unfortunately, we cannot provide more information about Late 19th-20th Century American Painting because all archival materials about this exhibition have been lost.

6 Before becoming an ardent proponent and international promoter of the Soviet rock music, Stingray was a successful pop musician. In 1983, she recorded her first album Beverly Hills Brat. Warhol featured in Stingray’s video clip shot on the album’s cover song (The video clip is available on YouTube). We tend to think that Warhol and Stingray got to know each other through Stingray’s father who was a multimillionaire and a Pop Art collector. For more information, see: Stingray, 2019a, and Stingray, 2019b.

7 The ASSA gallery was no art gallery in its traditional sense. As the Soviet government banned all private art initiatives, Non-Conformist artists, having no other place to show their artwork, decided to organize exhibitions in their own apartments. The ASSA gallery is a metaphorical name of one of such apartment exhibitions that sought to display the art that could not be otherwise exhibited in the official art institutions due to the existing political constraints. For more information, see: Orlov, 2006.

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Elena Sidorova, « The “Andy Warhol” Millennium Show for Russia: Commemorating the Past, Celebrating the Present, and Looking Towards the Future », L’Espace Politique [En ligne], 41 | 2020-2, mis en ligne le 23 février 2021, consulté le 13 avril 2021. URL : ; DOI :

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Elena Sidorova

Docteure associée. CERI Sciences Po Paris

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