John Maier

What did the Russians make of Francis Bacon?

Bacon was hardly a Soviet-friendly artist, yet his 1988 Moscow retrospective, organised with immense difficulty by James Birch, was a runaway success

Francis Bacon in 1984. [Photo by Ulf Andersen/Getty Images]

The KGB might not have known much about modern art, but they knew what they liked. For instance, at what came to be called the ‘Bulldozer show’ of 15 September 1974, the Soviet secret service instructed a small militia of off-duty policemen to besiege an unofficial exhibition being staged by a group of underground artists in a field on the outskirts of Moscow.

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