1968 – Born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan Education
1983 – 1987 – Republican College of Art, Tashkent Exhibitions
1992 – Unity Out of Style, Wonderful 70, Ilkhom Theatre, Tashkent
1993 – Typical Project, Union of Filmmakers of Uzbekistan, Tashkent
1994 – Independence, Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan, Tashkent
1995 – Navrus, Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan, Tashkent
1996 – Young Artists of Uzbekistan, Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan, Tashkent
1998 – Artists of Uzbekistan, Istanbul, Turkey
1999 – Sculpture and graphic arts of Uzbekistan, Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan, Tashkent
2000 – NN Gallery, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
2001 – 10 years of Independence of Uzbekistan, Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan, Tashkent
2002 – Art Salon, Central Exhibition Hall Manege, Moscow
2002 – Internal Asia, Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan, Tashkent
2002 – Tengri – Umai International Art Festival, Almaty, Kazakhstan
2002 – Sintez, Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan, Tashkent
2003 – 2nd Tashkent Biennale
2003 – Reality is ready to be ark, Ilkhom Theatre, Tashkent
2004 – Video Identity: The Sacred Places of Central Asia, Almaty, Kazakhstan
2004 - ...And Others, Kurama Art Gallery, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
2005 – Videoformes, Clermont-Ferrand, France 2005 – Icon Data World Prints, Krakow, Poland
2005 – 51st Venice Biennale
2005 – In the Shadow of Heroes, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
2005 – 2006 – Aluminium, Festival of Contemporary Art, Baku, Azerbaijan
2006 – Art of Central Asia, Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw, Poland
2006 – Rose of the World, Moscow, Russia
2007 – La Biennale de Montreal, Canada
2007 – 52nd Venice Biennale
2007 – Constellation Post Scriptum, NBU Gallery, Tashkent
2008 – Tracing Roads through Central Asia: On Traders’ Dilemmas and Travelers’ Perspectives, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, USA
2008 – Black Box Music & Visual Arts Festival, Ilkhom Theatre, Tashkent
2008 – Kinoshok, Anapa, Russia
2009 – Intempéries, Sao Paulo, Brazil
2009 – 2nd Bienal del Fin del Mundo, Ushuaia, Argentina
2010 – Ill Winds, Academy of Arts, Berlin, Germany
2010 – Signs of Time, Tashkent
2011 – 54th Venice Biennale
2011 – Between Heaven and Earth. Contemporary Art From The Centre of Asia, Calvert 22 Gallery, London, England
2011 – …And I have been/not been to Arcadia, 4th Moscow Biennale
2015 – Pointers to Memory: Tales of Then and Now, Andakulova Gallery (previously Alif Art Gallery), Dubai
2015 – Central Asia Art Month, Andakulova Gallery (previously Alif Art Gallery) & Art Hub, Abu Dhabi
2016 – World Art Dubai, Andakulova Gallery (previously Alif Art Gallery), DWTC, Dubai
2016 – Uzbek Kitchen, 8th Tashkent Biennale
The art of Alexander Nikolaev vividly reflects the recent history of conceptual art of Uzbekistan - brief yet self - sufficient in terms of its genesis and evolution . Isolated from European influences, even more so from exposure to modernity in the late 20th century, Soviet Central Asia experienced momentous transformations where artists began to express these shifts through their aesthetics.
The reckless 90s saw the formative years of a group of young artists who began their expressions around the same as Nikolaev. These artists were neither social activists, nor non - conformists but when faced with great political and social transformations they felt compelled to challenge, to question, to contest through their art. Such artists especially attempted to articulate a critical discourse on the then institutionally accepted parameters of what was considered as art.
Once artists such as Nikolaev broke away from traditional artistic representations, he moved towards the freedom offered by conceptual tactics. He progressed by dropping the "framework" of a picture finding it too restrictive, preferring installations, utilizing objects, and appropriating ready - mades. "Modulor" objects were painted structures representing the stages of human evolution and alluding to the constructivist experience of Le Corbusier, from whom Nikolaev borrowed them.
The years between 1999 and 2005 were crucial: the artist explored various artistic strategies. In 2004 Nikolaev showed his first video artworks that highlighted the conflict between urbanism and the fragile world of nature through environmental disasters ("The Aral Sea", "Fishes"), and spiritual impoverishment in the faceless quarters of a ferro - concrete city ("Elevator", "Shaman"). Illustrating such tensions, he displayed his ease in dealing with uncomfortable to contestative issues cleaving Central Asia.
Over time as his practice matured, Nikolaev turned to develop expression of his personal experience as a reflection of challenges posed by the time. His video "I wanna Go to Hollywood", the sublimated aspirations of the entire generation, launched Nikolaev to the international art scene.
Eighteen embroidered textile collages of this kind make up a complex pseudo-ethnographic cumulative societal ‘portrait’, in which one ‘type’ lines up against another in an intricate interplay between traditional customs and modernity. Nikolaev intersperses more ‘recognisable’ types – watermelon sellers, women selling roosters at a bird market, Uzbek plov and kebab chefs, women carrying basins full of baked wedding gifts – with images of business deals, large scale construction, individual consumption in the form of images of ecstatic owners of new cars, and greater communication with the outside world. The typology self-professedly looks backwards and forwards, forming an image of a modern-day Uzbekistan made of tradition and change that refuse to be pulled apart from one another.
Uzbekistan – especially Tashkent, its capital – has undergone tremendous change after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and its emergence as an independent nation in 1991. Industrial activity has given way to trade, with factories slowing down or shutting down altogether. Meanwhile, the city’s commercial activity is growing, with space for selling increasing by five to ten times. Nikolaev’s newspaper-wielding, suited businessmen and businesswomen who make deals via the telephone and sign contracts depict some of the upwardly mobile individuals making the most of the current economic conditions. These are the ‘new Uzbeks’ starting banks, hotels, business centers, supermarkets and shops, health resorts, swimming pools and tennis courts, and visibly changing the feel of the cityscape. Nikolaev’s builders appear twice in the embroideries, laying the foundations of this new Tashkent, which ethnographer Marfua Tokhtakhodzhaeva describes as having the distinctive ‘emphasis on monumental scale in architecture’. Even the watermelon seller and the rooster seller, while seemingly embodying more stereotypical images of Uzbekistan, are in fact likewise partaking in the newfound opportunities for smallscale economic activity.
Nikolaev’s imagery, however, refuses to forego a reality that is as contemporary as the economic and social transformations that take place: that of a persistence and – at times – even an active revival of customs local to Uzbenkistan under ‘national rebirth’. Women hurry along to a wedding with gifts, national foods such as plov and patir pastries are proudly offered up to the viewer. As Tokhtakhodzhaeva notes, the divide between tradition and modernity is near impossible to locate geographically; municipal parks immediately outside the city centre have become grazing land, the suburbs of contain thousands of migrants who have moved to the city from the country, and over a thousand new mosques are visible across the cityscape after years of state atheism. As these featured have themselves become embedded in the texture of the city as part of Uzbekistan’s modernity, so do Nikolaev’s ‘types’ proclaim the complexity of difference present in 21st century Uzbekistan, both locally-rooted and globally-facing.
It is this diverse and subtle miniature universe that Nikolaev builds up in brightly coloured satin, sequins and glitter. The gaudy, glossy fabrics, brightly coloured thread and glittering sequins all promise a sweet and sentimental world of a laboriously produced souvenir, which Nikolaev undermines with his distinctively modern and quotidian choice of subjects. Promising sweet, comfortable, timeless elements in the embroideries – small-scale, harmless, dolllike gently padded fabric characters dressed in ikat textiles for which Uzbekistan is known internationally – Nikolaev delivers a tongue-in-cheek challenge to conventional ‘timeless’ stereotypes of a country about which there is a relative dearth of knowledge internationally. These clichés are, as art critic Oksana Shatalova described, to do with ‘the Orient [being] known [as] spiritual, traditional, unhurried, incomprehensible, and mysterious’.5 Clothing his figures in the visual language of a certain deliberate naïveté, Nikolaev punctures the very qualities the aesthetics of the souvenirlike embroideries, at first glance, appear to bolster.