Dates: 1972-1990

Origin: Russia

Key Artists: Vitaly Komar, Alexander Melamid

Term used from 1972 to describe a style of unofficial art that flourished in the USSR from c. 1970 to c. 1985–8. The term itself is formed from the first syllable of Sotsialisticheskiy realizm (Rus.: ‘Socialist Realism’) and the second word of Pop art and is attributed to the art historian Vladimir Paperny. Sots art takes the style of Socialist realism, with its mass ideological implications, as a legitimate object of investigation, intending to deconstruct the ideological system through its own visual language. It forms a criticism of Socialist Realism by unofficial Russian artists as reflecting the ideological myths underpinning Soviet society. The means of ideological propaganda are thus investigated in terms of their relation to the national mentality and their consumption as objects of mass culture. The main artists producing works of this type were Komar and Melamid, Erik Bulatov (e.g. Horizon, 1971–2; Paris, priv. col.), and, since the mid-1970s, Il’ya Kabakov, Dmitry Prigov (b 1940), the sculptors Aleksey Kosolapov (b 1948) and Leonid Sokov (b 1941) and the group Gnezdo (Rus.: ‘Nest’), founded in 1975. The first prominent exhibition of Sots art was held at Ronald Feldman Fine Art, New York, in 1976. There was a second wave of Sots art in Moscow, comprising work by the group Mukhomory (Rus.: ‘Toadstool’), founded in 1978, which included the sculptor Boris Orlov (b 1941) and the painters Grigory Bruskin (b 1945) and Rostislav Lebedev (b 1946). Artists who had emigrated and continued to work in this style in New York (Komar, Melamid, Sokov, Kosolapov) used it to criticize not only Soviet but also American ideological myths and institutions.

Andreyeva, Yekaterina. “Sots art.” Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. 12 Mar. 2010 <>

Vitaly Komar

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