De-fetishizing Lenin Kitsch

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In the fall of 2008, artist Yevgeniy Fiks challenged the value of art commerce (and the festishization of Soviet kitsch), with the help of 91 little Vladimir Lenins at the New York City’s Winkleman Gallery.  

From Adopt Lenin

Instead of buying a piece of art from the exhibition “Adopt Lenin (http://www.winkleman.com/exhibition/view/1433)” visitors had the opportunity to “adopt” an item.  With each exchange, Fiks evoked Lenin’s Socialist legacy while riffing on the capitalism of the art market. 
Participants signed an agreement with the gallery certifying that they would never sell or in any way profit from the object.  (Anyone who inherits the object must adhere to the same rules. )  Copies of the signed adoption papers covered a gallery wall. 

Fiks bought these images and figurines of the Soviet leader on eBay and from Moscow.  He estimated that the Communist kitsch cost him $5,000.  When the Winkleman Gallery offered to pay part of Fiks’ expenses, he refused–the money had to be his own so that he could personally liberate these icons of the Communist leader from the capitalist realm (and in a way that Marx’s coat, as discussed in our readings, never achieved).  

For four weeks in September, images and figurines of Lenin filled the space: he rested his chin on his palm; he walked with his hands in his pockets; he spoke before a microphone.  A total of 91 Lenins occupied the gallery, representing the 91 years since the Russian Revolution and Lenin’s ascent to power.   By playing with the commercial art paradigm and paying for the pieces himself, Fiks awakens art fans to a new way of thinking about art as “priceless.”

Adopt Lenin Exhibit

Adopt Lenin Exhibit

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