The Museological Unconscious

The Museological Unconscious

Communal (Post)Modernism in Russia

By Victor Tupitsyn

Introduction by Susan Buck-Morss

The history of contemporary art in Russia, from socialist realism to the post-Soviet alternative art scene.





The history of contemporary art in Russia, from socialist realism to the post-Soviet alternative art scene.

In The Museological Unconscious, Victor Tupitsyn views the history of Russian contemporary art through a distinctly Russian lens, a “communal optic” that registers the influence of such characteristically Russian phenomena as communal living, communal perception, and communal speech practices. This way of looking at the subject allows him to gather together a range of artists and art movements—from socialist realism to its “dangerous supplement,” sots art, and from alternative photography to feminism—as if they were tenants in a large Moscow apartment.

Describing the notion of “communal optics,” Tupitsyn argues that socialist realism does not work without communal perception—which, as he notes, does not easily fit into crates when paintings travel out of Russia for exhibition in Kassel or New York. Russian artists, critics, and art historians, having lived for decades in a society that ignored or suppressed avant-garde art, have compensated, Tupitsyn claims, by developing a “museological unconscious”—the “museification” of the inner world and the collective psyche.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262201735 352 pp. | 8 in x 9 in 90 b&w illus.


$18.00 T ISBN: 9780262517515 352 pp. | 8 in x 9 in 90 b&w illus.


Susan Buck-Morss.


  • This is a big and beautiful book, illuminating and idiosyncratic at once...Tupitsyn's mix of art reviews, political meditations, and personal memories provide a unique and valuable perspective on post-Soviet culture in Russia and the West.

    The Russian Review


  • The Museological Unconscious is a compelling and challenging analysis of the dynamics between Russian art practices and East-West sociocultural politics of the past sixty years by one of contemporary art's most provocative commentators. Imbued with a rare wit and humour, Victor Tupitsyn's agile intellect navigates us through the treacherous waters of cultural translation and aesthetic theory, providing liberating insights into both the aspirations and strategies of Russian artists under Soviet, post-Soviet, and Western institutional constraints and the structural complicity of contemporary art museums with the culture industry.

    Jean Fisher

    Professor of Fine Art and Transcultural Studies, Middlesex University

  • In this long-awaited book, Victor Tupitsyn asks a highly important theoretical question: what are the optical conditions that provide the context necessary to understand a work of art? The Museological Unconscious reveals the perceptual gap between Western and Russian views of allegedly 'the same' art phenomena.

    Victor Mazin

    Head of the Department of Theoretical Psychoanalysis at East-European Institute of Psychoanalysis and founder of Freud's Dream Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia