Kirsan Ilyumzhinov: Today, Ernst Neizvestny would have turned 95 years old

Ernst Neizvestny is one of the most famous people in the world. He was recognized as great sculptor during his lifetime, but you would not find another such example, when a creative person does not care what others think of him. He worked for eternity.

Nikita Khrushchev, the then sovereign of the USSR, publicly called the Neizvestny "degenerate" at the exhibition in the Manege in 1962 and Ernst in his turn called him a layman in art. Then he was immediately expelled from the Union of Artists, and a little later, he was expelled from the country. Who could openly protest the imperial dictates at that time? No one. That is why Neizvestny is known to all, and hundreds and thousands of artists who served the authorities have sunk into oblivion.


The irony of fate is that it was Ernst the Neizvestny who made a monument on the grave of Nikita Khrushchev, which is deeply symbolical . Power, on a historical scale, is momentary while art is eternal. And only art has power over how future generations will see today’s authorities. Every ruler should remember this.

Today, Ernst Neizvestny would have turned 95 years old. Already three years passed since he left our world, leaving magnificent traces of his stay on planet Earth. I got lucky. I was familiar, and, I dare to hope, was friends with this great man. We met in Kalmykia when he worked on the “Exodus and Return” monument dedicated to the deportation of Kalmyks. When I opened the memorial on 29 December, 1996, I thought: how is this possible? How can a man make bronze to breathe, live and be able to tell people about the innermost and most important?
Ernst Neizvestny knew how to make marble, granite and metal alive. He put his soul into his creations. And now his soul is alive, it lives in all his creations.
Back in 1971, a giant "Lotus Flower" was erected next to the Aswan Dam in Egypt. It is a sculptural composition based on sketches by Ernst Neizvestny in honour of Soviet-Arab friendship. After almost a quarter of a century, I asked him to visit Tsagan Aman to see how lotuses bloom in the Volga delta. The flower opens in the early morning, as soon as the sun rises, revealing its beauty for only a couple of hours, and then closes again. We are told that the beauty of the blooming lotus could see only those who live in harmony with nature. The great master was happy to hold in his hand this brilliant creation of the Maker and looked with wet eyes from tears at its beauty...