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The Ransom of Russian Art

He seems to be been a godsend for a great many painters, some of whom were just clever con artists adept at manufacturing the kind of pseudo-disseident art diplomats liked to bring home as souvenirs. This is one of the many fascinating ethical issues McPhee alludes to without dwelling on it. Personally I have zero affinity with most of the works reproduced as illustration for the book, but from Dodge's point of view that would be neither here nor there since it is their significance as the product of peculiar historical circumstances that motivated him.

Sep 17, Mitchell rated it it was amazing. I met the late Norton Dodge a couple of times and I now regret that I hadn't read this quickie book before I had. I knew him to be legendary for some reason, but now I understand why. Here was a slovenly disheveled academic from Oklahoma who spoke poor Russian, but managed to single-handedly save thousands of Soviet dissident works of art and some of the artists with them at great risk to himself. It's easy to forget today how brutal the Soviet regime was and it's heartbreaking to read of lives I met the late Norton Dodge a couple of times and I now regret that I hadn't read this quickie book before I had.

Geli Korzhev Installation at The Museum of Russian Art (TMORA)

It's easy to forget today how brutal the Soviet regime was and it's heartbreaking to read of lives destroyed for the basest of political reasons. It's also easy to forget how easy technology has now made communication. Dodge had to venture into back streets of cities that were off-limits to visiting foreigners with nothing more than scraps of paper with an address on it in his hand.

He had to find clandestine ways to ship works out. Most interesting to me was how he enlisted Latin American diplomats and their diplomatic pouches. Then there were the CIA people I wouldn't doubt that Dodge took some secrets to the grave with him. Another fascinating side of the tale is that Dodge himself didn't much appreciate art. He just understood its importance and wanted to prevent it from being destroyed. Feb 06, Liz rated it liked it.

John McPhee has an utterly unique topic here: Norton Dodge, a University of Maryland economics professor who spent nearly 30 years bringing out pieces of "unofficial" or "noncomformist" art by men and women living in the then-USSR.

KIRKUS REVIEW

These artists were not officially sanctioned by the Kremlin and, as such, continued to paint in the s through the s in constant fear of incarceration in prisons or mental hospitals. This book could have benefited from better editing I repeatedly found my John McPhee has an utterly unique topic here: This book could have benefited from better editing I repeatedly found myself confused about which character represented the subject of a sentence , but that was a small distraction in the heroic tale of this intrepid collector and the indomitable artists he helped.

And McPhee successfully got at Dodge's motivation for collecting, an elusive psychology to pinpoint. While this avocation fit into his overall packrat mentality, Dodge also sought to ensure the artists could continue to produce, even as he rescued an encyclopedic selection of their works, good, bad, and indifferent. Mar 15, Ci rated it really liked it. This is not about Russian art, thus no commentary about the merits and demerits of any work; this is about Norton Dodge's pursuing and purchasing of "unofficial" art in the early "thaw" of and 's. By all account, Dodge is such a messy, disorganized, easily disoriented academic, how did he get around Russian with a flash light and old maps, sans major harrassment from the KGB?

Of course there are suspcion of artist death caused by their contacts with Dodge thus the west ; but still, his This is not about Russian art, thus no commentary about the merits and demerits of any work; this is about Norton Dodge's pursuing and purchasing of "unofficial" art in the early "thaw" of and 's. Of course there are suspcion of artist death caused by their contacts with Dodge thus the west ; but still, his access seemed remarkable given the political climates of that period.

The unresolved question is the ransom, which is in the double digits of millions. How does an academic get in such possession? Nothing really convincing comes to mind. In a different spin, this can be a different story, other than the passionate pursuing of one singular mind and personality. Nov 30, Kevin A.

The Ransom of Russian Art Critical Essays - nifaquniky.cf

Reminiscent of as it surely had been one of those endless New Yorker articles from the old days. The kind you read about five pages of before starting to flip through the magazine asking "how long IS this thing? The book is a profile of an academic of apparently endless wealth who spent several decades making trips to the Soviet Union to purchase the work of dissident artists. The coll Reminiscent of as it surely had been one of those endless New Yorker articles from the old days.

The collection was not especially curated; he bought most everything, warehousing it in outbuildings on his Maryland farm. There is some suspicion that his work was subsidized by the CIA, if not wholly directed by the agency. But ultimately we're not really given many answers, with the reader not entirely sure what to make of it. Oct 19, Patricia rated it really liked it.

What can I say?

Ransom of Russian Art

I love John McPhee and all the crazy, obscure subjects he chooses for books. This one is certainly one I knew nothing about--to the point that it had never even been on my radar, or however you say that. The book is about this guy, Norton Dodge, who had a passion for collecting it and took all sorts of risks to do so. He eventually acquired over 9, works of art. The book is What can I say? The book is a gorgeous one, and it, thankfully, has a number of well-done photos of art in it, so that readers like me, who know nothing of the topic, can get a taste of it.

It is speedy read, and well worth the time spent. An American collector of "unofficial" Soviet art: Larger works, he says -- his thick eyebrows merging with his mustache -- 'had to go through channels. When you add it all up, you wonder how you did all that. Nov 04, Travis rated it liked it. Of course there's questions about CIA involvement, smuggling, funding and the dynamics of art consumption.

It's not a tidy story though, and the unanswered perhaps unanswerable questions left me a bit frustrated. The color reproductions are fantastic though, and McPhee's prose will win you over. This short read saved me during the very ridiculous moments of the FEST this weekend. A book about my former boss, Norton Dodge, and his furitive efforts to smuggle art out of the former Soviet Union. There isn't a great deal of details about how the art was removed, as Norton has not reveled his methods, but there is a charming story about Norton and his efforts to preserve the art that the Soviets deemed unworthy.


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Dec 05, James rated it it was ok Shelves: It was interesting - but more so in concept than execution. I don't usually think of McPhee books as needing shortened with the exception of Founding Fish , but nothing seemed to happen in later pages that didn't happen in the first pages. No new developments, no revelations, no insights Jul 26, Jill rated it really liked it.

Funny how some books sit unread on your shelf for years until the mood to read them strikes. A fascinating book on a scatterbrained American professor's lifelong passion for underground Russian art and how he amassed his collection of such dissident art. Feb 21, Dan rated it it was ok.

Not my favorite McPhee book to date, but a fast read easily handled in one unemployed-day. An interesting departure from his work of hard-science based pieces. I intend to tackle Coming Into the Country next More like skimmed, to be honest. The story is not told in a very interesting way, but it is a basically interesting story. Most people will not have had the opportunity to be exposed to the works reproduced here.

That's probably the most interesting aspect. Aug 30, Dennis Murphy rated it it was amazing. I am a dedicated McPhee reader but this is not your average McPhee book. Its not about Geology, Nature, or Alaska; rather it is about the the state of non-state art during the Communist era and how a representation of that work came to the West. Jan 10, Rebecca rated it really liked it. A fascinating, short read about a unique and unusual economics professor--a true story--who was able to smuggle out thousands of unofficial works of art by Russian artists all across the former Soviet Union over several decades.

Jan 19, M rated it it was ok. I will read anything John McPhee writes. The subject matter of this one dissident art in Soviet Russia, smuggled out by an unlikely collector in America wasn't quite my thing, but it made for an interesting look at another world. Dec 04, Becca rated it it was ok. The lack of more stars is because it leaves every narrative just hanging. It seems under researched and lacking effort on the authors part.

He could have tried harder.


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Jan 13, Zach rated it it was amazing. A great story about the "unofficial" artists working in the Soviet Union in the 70s and 80s. Particularly interesting is the story of the life of Evgeny Rukhin, who was killed by the KGB at 32 for refusing to quit making art despite his "unofficial" status. Plus, I mean, it's John McPhee. Sep 02, Amanda rated it it was ok.

Perhaps this was inevitable given the subject matter, but it was not helped by the clunky prose unusual for McPhee and disjointed narrative. Jul 31, Pilar rated it liked it. With a talent for telling details and compelling anecdotes and a fluid, economical style, McPhee is always interesting, regardless of his subject, and a saga of Professor Norton T.

Dodge is perhaps the most interesting story he has told. Dodge, who taught at the University of Maryland until he retired, made numerous trips to the Soviet Union between and , ostensibly to study such subjects as the economic status of women. Dodge, however, had long been an art enthusiast, and he found himself buying paintings and drawings by artists outside the official Soviet art establishment. These artists had been branded as nonconformist or unofficial because their subjects and styles violated the standards set by the Communist Party.

Some of their works dealt with political or religious themes. More were openly sexual.