A forlorn, dusty town in the Kyzl Kum desert has to be one of the last places on earth you’d expect to find a world-class gallery of modern art. But Nukus, the otherwise un-distinguished, Soviet-block capital of Karakalpakstan Republic, in Uzbekistan’s far west, is precisely that.
The ‘Karakalpak Museum of Arts’ in Nukus hosts the astonishing collection of items amassed by the Kiev-born artist, Igor Vitalevich Savitsky, in the 1950s and 1960s, at a time when Stalinist government was persecuting artists deemed ‘avant garde’.
Savitsky had originally moved to this remote corner of the Soviet Empire to pursue his fascination with the ancient cultures of the Khorezm, but at the same time, he was also buying up banned art from Russian cities and hiding it at his home in this remote province.
By the time of his death, he’d collected around 90,000 pieces, which now form the basis of one of Asia’s most remarkable collections. Art lovers from across the world make the pilgrimage here to see its Surrealist, Cubist and Brutalist paintings, along with the breathtakingly beautiful Uzbek works, Modernist textiles and jewellery.