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Luxury housing built over grave of famed Russian painter

By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, August 28, 2013 17:23 EDT
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A painting entitled Suprematist Composition by artist Kazimir Malevich is displayed at the Sotheby's auction house (AFP)
 
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The burial place outside Moscow of the great Russian artist Kazimir Malevich, famed for his avant-garde works of the early Soviet era, has been paved over to make way for a luxury gated community, activists said Wednesday.

A new construction project in the village of Nemchinovka near Moscow was allowed to cover the grave of the painter of the iconic “Black Square” composition, despite tireless petitions, local activist Alexander Matveyev told AFP.

Matveyev heads the group “Nemchinovka and Malevich” which researches the artist’s life in the village and he said had provided authorities with the precise coordinates of the location of the grave.

Several well-known Russian cultural figures flocked to Nemchinovka in the 1920s, including Malevich and visionary Soviet filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein.

Malevich, an artist, sculptor and writer, who died in 1935 in what is now Saint Petersburg, was cremated and buried in Nemchinovka as per his wishes. The exact location of the grave was lost during World War II.

By the late 1980s, the area was an agricultural field so a plaque was erected on the edge of the field, about two kilometres away from the spot.

Two more decades passed before Matveyev and other activists in Nemchinovka were able to pinpoint the exact coordinates through surviving witnesses, radar equipment and military maps.

They even joined forces with German banker and Nemchinovka resident Jochen Wermuth in 2011 to build a memorial and museum centre in the area, only to see the area closed off by the construction company.

“The culture ministry ordered to stop construction works, but they only stopped for a few hours,” Matveyev said.

“Now the spot has been covered with concrete.”

He said that the exact location of the grave has now been paved over and is surrounded by housing which will form a gated community.

Moscow region culture official Oleg Rozhnov told RIA-Novosti news agency this week that by the time the grave was precisely located, it was too late to change the project, since “it was already inside the gated territory”.

But Matveyev dismissed this as misinformation.

Once a bucolic country setting lying just west of the capital, Nemchinovka and the surrounding scenery that inspired Malevich is now covered with gated communities and housing complexes populated by affluent Moscow commuters.

The website of the complex, called Romashkovo City, boasts a “fenced territory and 24-hour video surveillance monitored by our own security team”. Residents access the premises via electronic keys and will have their own private school and kindergarten.

Matveyev has now written to President Vladimir Putin asking to move the grave beyond the premises to a plot of land that is still available, with the dream of some day building a centre of avant-garde art.

“We need land to build the memorial,” he said. “I think Malevich would approve.”

He added that not all was lost since the precise spot has no housing built on top of it, just paving.

By the time of his death at 57 in 1935, Malevich had become a persona non-grata in the Soviet art establishment which had returned to conservatism after the bold experiments of the early 1920s. He had asked to be laid in a “Suprematist” coffin shaped like a cross.

A Moscow crematorium burned his body, and his ashes were buried under his favourite oak tree in Nemchinovka, marked with a black square.

In his will he asked that a monument on top of his grave contain a telescope pointed at Jupiter.

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
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