This is the first time that Baryshnikov’s collection has been publicly presented. It follows a recent exhibition of his own photographic work showcased at ABA Gallery in October, 2012. Featuring 106 artworks by Russian, French and American artists, acquired over almost four decades through purchases and gifts, “The Art I’ve Lived With” provides a rare insight into the personal tastes and broader inspirations of the legendary dancer and choreographer. “I never imagined that anyone would regard these works as a cohesive collection,” says Mikhail Baryshnikov, “I didn’t go to auctions and didn’t accumulate based on scholarship or study like a proper collector. It was simply what caught my eye and what I could afford at any given time.”
The story of Baryshnikov, the collector, started with a serendipitous visit to an art gallery on Rue de Seine in Paris, in 1975 with enough money in his pocket to leave with two acquisitions: a Jean Cocteau drawing of Serge Diaghilev and a Christian Berard design for Balanchine’s Mozartiana. That began what Baryshnikov calls his “impulse to surround myself with images related to dance and theater—images evoking the world where I feel most comfortable.” Over the years, the collection grew, getting packed and unpacked, as the ballet star travelled the world, helping him feel at home. The exhibition shows paintings, drawings and sketches representing a wide variety of styles: from the St. Petersburg fin-de-siècle (Léon Bakst, Alexandre Benois, Sergei Sudeikin) to the Russian Avant-Garde and surrealism (Natalia Goncharova, Mikhail Larionov, Pavel Tchelitchew) to the Soviet non-conformist movementNatalia Goncharova, Untitled, n.d. Sergei Sudeikin, Untitled, n.d. (Alexander Arefiev, Anatoly Zverev), right up to contemporary stage and film design (Antoni Clavé, Valentin Dorrer and David Salle).
Naturally, the foundation of Baryshnikov’s collection consists of stage designs for sets and costumes, pictures of rehearsals and premieres,and portraits of theatrical luminaries, such as Sergei Diaghilev and Vaslav Nijinsky. Diaghilev’s spectacular enterprise, the Ballets Russes (1909-29), is referenced throughout the collection (Jean Cocteau’s portraits of Diaghilev and Nijinsky; Larionov’s double portrait of Diaghilev and Apollinaire and drawings of rehearsals; Tchelitchew’s cerebral and anatomical studies of Spiral Head and Clown; and Valentine Gross’ representation of Nijinsky in Le Spectre de la Rose). “We are very pleased to present ‘The Art I’ve Lived With,’” said Anatol Bekkerman, owner of ABA Gallery, “This exhibition continues our longtime friendship with Mikhail Baryshnikov and unveils yet another side of this great artistic talent.
Some of these artworks, such as Merce Cunnigham’s dedication to Baryshnikov or David Salle’s design sketch for The Molino Room, intimate and highly personal, tokens of friendships and affinities. Whether masterpiece or keepsake, they are ascribed equal importance in the collection. This exhibition of the art he has lived with seeks to reflect Baryshnikov’s unwavering passion for his art and the breadth and openness of his vision.