Anatoly Zverev: the tramp, the rebel and the treasure of Russian avant-guard

Anatoly Zverev was born in 1931, an artist by birth. He lived life to the fullest being homeless, created amazing pictures having no workroom or paints, and desperately loved a woman 38 years older than himself…

Zverev spent his whole life in Moscow, in the midst of cultural life, in the epicenter of the Russian avant-garde… And exactly here, near the house of another Russian artist Vladimir Nemukhin, whom Zverev loved to visit, situated Zverev’s Museum.

The opening of the AZ Museum in Spring 2015 was preceded by the exhibition “Zverev on Fire” in The Moscow Manege, where about 200 works by Anatoly Zverev from George Costakis’ collection–which survived the fire of 1976–were exposed. Later, the daughter of the great collector Aliki Costakis donated these and hundreds of other works to the museum. Once she said about Zverev: “Among the finest artists of the sixties, he was alone–the only.”

Zverev was a very prolific and expressive artist. In the words of George Costakis, “great, but uneven.”


I suspect that this unevenness alone made him a legend. Wandering through the museum and absorbing Zverev’s momentary etudes, I suddenly realized why some time ago I so utterly fell in love with the artist… from the very first time I saw his watercolors, from the first time I heard one of his quotes. The thing is that he was not just out of the general stream of life, art, poetry, and love… he was beaten out from his own, separate stream, perpendicular to all others. Non-non-conformist as they say.


He was breaking all the rules, ignored the formalities, violated any barriers between himself and cherished freedom of thought and action. Assuming that he doesn’t need a house to live, he found refuge – for a night or for even whole months sometimes – at his friends’ homes. Considering that a real artist doesn’t depend on the need for paints, he painted with watercolors, water, or even grass juice.

He was creating lightning fast, sensitive, talented poems in spite of all the literary standards, and therefore left some full suitcases of them. He loved – selflessly, without succumbing to any logical or rational understanding of feelings – Oksana Aseeva, which at the time of meeting her, she had reached 78 years old…


Zverev was a model rebel, a true artist and true “outlier” in this system. An idol!

A three-story museum-emotion dedicated to Anatoly Zverev is impregnated with his manifest of spiritual and physical freedom. On the first floor, you will face a video presentation about the artist and the museum AZ. On the second and third floors, you’ll find his works – self-portraits, portraits of George Costakis and his daughters, rare works of diplomatic series which arrived from one of Europe’s largest collectors of Zverev from Sweden, and of course – multiple, gentlest portraits of Oksana Aseeva, widow of writer Nikolai Aseev and fatal beloved of Anatoly Zverev.


However, this is only the first introductory episode of the exposition. Soon the museum will completely renovate the exhibition with other works, distributing them thematically by floor, continuing to tell the life story of the legendary Soviet avant-gardist–a rebel, and wanderer, Anatoly Zverev. How many episodes will there be? – We do not know… But this show, without a doubt, is a must-see.


The AZ Museum is located at 20-22 Second Tverskaya-Yamskaya Street.

About Yana141 Articles
Journalist by education, barstool philosopher by heart. Moskvaer. Rebel. Frustrated hedonist.

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