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The Desert Of Forbidden Art (2011)

The Desert Of Forbidden Art


Average Rating: 7.2/10
Reviews Counted: 17
Fresh: 15
Rotten: 2

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.

Average Rating: 6.8/10
Reviews Counted: 6
Fresh: 5
Rotten: 1

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.


Average Rating: 3.8/5
User Ratings: 230


Movie Info

THE DESERT OF FORBIDDEN ART is the incredible true story of how one man, Igor Savitsky, saved a treasure trove of art worth millions of dollars, "hiding" it in a museum in the desert in Uzbekistan. A tireless collector of paintings that the Soviet government wanted destroyed, Savitsky traveled thousands of miles - scheming, plotting, pleading - doing whatever it took to get his hands on the art he so passionately wanted to preserve. As a result of his efforts, The Karakalpakstan State Museum of … More

Musical & Performing Arts , Documentary
Directed By:
Written By:
Tchavdar Georgiev , Amanda Pope
In Theaters:
Jun 21, 2011
Olive Films - Official Site


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Critic Reviews for The Desert Of Forbidden Art

All Critics (17) | Top Critics (6) | Fresh (15) | Rotten (2)

Viewers of this remarkable documentary will be astonished at not only what this art looks like and why it's forbidden, but also where it is and how it got there.

Full Review… | March 17, 2011
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

[A] Gorgeous documentary.

Full Review… | March 11, 2011
New York Times
Top Critic

[An] nformative but standard documentary...

Full Review… | March 11, 2011
New York Post
Top Critic

It's a must-see for anyone interested in art.

Full Review… | March 8, 2011
Village Voice
Top Critic

One anecdote about Savitsky flouting an official demand to remove an offending painting ends with this deftly scoffing voice-over from his stand-in, Ben Kingsley: "Anti-Soviet? Of course. Degenerate? No way."

Full Review… | September 30, 2010
Boston Globe
Top Critic

Needless to say, the film is packed with art, as well as interviews with art critics, journalists and the descendents of some of the artists.

Full Review… | September 23, 2010
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

Then there are the paintings themselves, which are breathtaking in their brilliant colors, and their hybrid influences of the Russian avant-garde and Central Asian folk culture.

Full Review… | June 28, 2013
Film Comment Magazine

What does the collector's collecting aim to substitute? What does the collection attempt to replace in the collector?

Full Review… | March 20, 2011
Slant Magazine

The fascinating story of one of the greatest collections of avant-garde art in the world and a plea for help in preserving it.

Full Review… | March 15, 2011
Monsters and Critics

One of the paintings featured herein is currently my Windows desktop image.

Full Review… | March 15, 2011
Projection Booth

The Desert of Forbidden Art tells the fascinating true story of a former aristocrat's efforts to save banned Soviet art in a remote desert area during the perilous Stalinist era.

Full Review… | March 15, 2011
Boxoffice Magazine

A great art-history tale becomes a good but less-than-remarkable film.

Full Review… | March 11, 2011
Film Journal International

An unusual and fascinating documentary about the survival of avant-garde art in the Soviet Union thanks to the courage, imagination, and zeal of one collector.

Full Review… | March 10, 2011
Spirituality and Practice

a remarkable story of heroism and of defiance of tyranny.

Full Review… | March 10, 2011
Mark Leeper's Reviews

Outstanding documentary on the conflict between revolutionary artists and a state power determined to crush them in the name of "Communism". A great companion-piece to Chris Marker's "The Last Bolshevik".

Full Review… | March 9, 2011

Art collector Igor Savitsky saved 44,000 world class art works from obliteration by the repressive Soviet regime, and built a museum for them in Uzbekistan. If you love art, history, and heros, you will love The Desert of forbidden Art

Full Review… | March 4, 2011

A dramatic examination of the power of art against forces of repressive tyranny.

Full Review… | January 7, 2011
Film Threat

Audience Reviews for The Desert Of Forbidden Art


"The Desert of Forbidden Art" is an informative documentary about a fascinating subject, the Nukus Museum in Karakalpakstan, an autonomous republic of Uzbekistan. When this area was part of the Soviet Union, the Stalinist idea was to repress the local culture as much as possible in favor of conformity.(On the plus side, women's liberation was introduced.) In response, Igor Savitsky began collecting as much local folk art as he could to put it in a museum, so it could be viewed and preserved. If that was not daring enough, then he also went on to do something similar for censored avant garde art which clashed with the official propaganda artwork of the social realist style that ironically had nothing to do with reality.

While getting bonus points for using a clip from the excellent movie "The White Sun of the Desert," "The Desert of Forbidden Art" mainly relies on the testimony of survivors and children of artists to tell its story. While it allows for an emotional recounting of events, it sadly does not allow for a coherent timeline. And yes we know all about the gulags by now. As for the present day, the documentary summarily skips over reported Uzbek human rights abuses(hat tip: Dirty Diplomacy by Craig Murray) in favor of what it feels is the greater peril of "radical Islam."

Walter M.

Super Reviewer

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