The unique world created by Natalya Nesterova is palpable and yet ephemeral and unreal. Everything she creates seems simple at first glance, and this sense of apparent understanding works like a trap for the viewer. The artist’s characters exist in more than one dimension, and in more than one world, but it often seems to the viewer that it is the world of his daily life. And once the viewer has complete certainty of being comfortable "inside" the artist’s visible world, Nesterova’s trap springs shut—and the viewer is in her hypnotic world, feeling delight and at the same time psychological discomfort, tranquilizing calm, and a strange, aching longing. Nesterova’s paintings elicit either the most loyal homage or an ostracizing rejection, but never, under any circumstances, indifference.
Working with Nesterova for almost a decade (Natalya participated in every group exhibit I curated), I was always amazed by her creative unpredictability. You never know what her next work or series will be, where her imagination or mood will take her. But every new series, which might seem to the uninitiated eye unexpected or experimental, is the continuation of a single logical inner line of her metaphysical search, the expression of her unique depiction of a moment in the world around her. The multitude of creative approaches Nesterova takes to express her inner feelings and sensation and the abundance of artist means is impressive. Nesterova is an orchestra of an enormous number of instruments, but it is a well-coordinated orchestra that obeys the conductor’s imperious hand.
Organizing this exhibit was a four-year project, requiring the location and selection of over 100 works, created by Nesterova in the last two decades in Russia, America, France, and Germany. Even for an artist who has exhibited in more than 25 countries, including the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, the Ludwig Museum of Modern Art in Cologne, The National Gallery of Modern Art in Seoul, and The State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg, and whose works are in these museums’ collections and the collections of the Guggenheim Museum in New York and the National Museum of Women in the Arts and the National Jewish Museum in Washington, this exhibit is the largest and most representative of Natalya Nesterova’s creative biography, and the catalogue, with articles by art historians from Russia and America, is the most exhaustive publication on her work.
Natalya Nesterova is one of the most talented modern artists of Russia, known and respected throughout the world. Nesterova was awarded title "Honored Artist of Russia", elected Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Fine Arts, and awarded the State Prize of Russia in the Fine Arts. Monographs have been written about her work, chapters in books and articles in leading journals and newspapers all over the world have been devoted to her work. This retrospective exhibit and the publication of the book coming out in connection with the exhibit required the help of many people in America, Russia, Ukraine, Canada, Germany, Hungary, China, France, and Korea, to whom I would like to extend my gratitude.
I would like to thank the people in all the cultural institutions that were interested in the work of Natalya Nesterova and who opened their doors for the exhibit Natalya Nesterova: Russian Wanderings; Elizabeth Kessin Berman, Curator, Phyllis Hideman, Museum Chair, and Rebecca Sobol, Exhibition Coordinator, B’nai B’rith Klutznick National Jewish Museum; Richard Hideman, President, and Dan Mariaschin, Executive Vice-President, B’nai B’rith International; Susan Hoeltzel, Director, and Mary Ann Siano, Associate Director, Lehman College Art Gallery, City University of New York; and Laurel Spencer Forsythe, Curator of Exhibitions, Education and Collections, Paine Art Center and Gardens. Nesterova’s exhibit is not my first collaboration with these museums and galleries, and each project we have done jointly has been a wonderful creative act of mutual understanding.
I would like to thank Ambassador of the Russian Federation Yuri V. Ushakov, Mrs. Svetlana M. Ushakova, and Cultural Attache Ludmila Antonova for organizing the opening night for Natalya Nesterova at the Russian Embassy in Washington, D. C., a wonderful preview of the exhibit at the National Jewish Museum, and their help in organizing this show. And I also thank Consul General of the Russian Federation Pavel A. Prokofyev for organizing an opening night for Nesterova in New York, a foretaste of the artist’s retrospective at the Lehman College Art Gallery, CUNY. Working with the Embassy and the Consulate was a memorable experience in collaboration with the new Russia of today.
I deeply appreciate the creative contributions to this book of Dr. Alexander D. Borovsky, Jamie Ellin Forbes, Susan Tumarkin Goodman, Robert C. Morgan, Maria Valyaeva, and Solomon Volkov, as well as of Elizabeth Kessin Berman, Susan Hoeltzel, and Laurel Spencer Forsythe. Examining aspects of Nesterova’s art from various creative positions and esthetic platforms, they give art lovers an opportunity to get a deeper understanding and appreciation of her work, create an all-encompassing and rounded image of the artist, and excite the readers’ imagination with their extraordinary and thought-provoking points of view.
My special thanks go to Gloria Cancro for her inspired poetry, which captured so sensitively Nesterova’s spiritual strivings and the beauty of her paintings; Antonina W. Bouis for her translations, profound understanding of the subject, and brilliant knowledge of Russian culture and art; and Elizaveta Plavinskaya for her painstaking research in Moscow archives on Russian art of the 19th century and early 20th century.
I am grateful to the directors, curators and staff of museums in several countries for allowing viewers to see the works of Natalya Nesterova from their collections: Lisa Dennison, Curator of Collections and Exhibitions, and Kim Bush, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Eugenia N. Petrova, Deputy Director, The State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg; Dr. Annette Lagler, Chief Curator, Ludwig Forum for International Art, Aachen; Vladimir A. Radionov, General Director, Tatyana V. Turtanova, and Alena Rezchikova, The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow; Tatyana N. Soldatova, Director, State Museum of Ukrainian Fine Arts, Kiev; Dr. Evelyn Weiss, Vice Director, Ludwig Museum of Modern Art, Cologne; Stephane Aquin, Curator of Contemporary Art, and Linda-Anne D’Anjou, The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts; Katalin Neray, Director, and Krisztina Szipocs, Chief Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art — Ludwig Museum Budapest; Susan Fisher Sterling, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC; and Nina E. Ganebnaya, Director, State Art Gallery, Ekaterinburg.
I would like to extend my gratitude to all the private supporters and lenders to the exhibition for their generosity and for sharing the beauty of their collections with us all: Mr. and Mrs. E. Michele Kruse; William J. Strizever, Chairman, SAUPRA Foundation; Mrs. Alice Wallace; Dr. and Mrs. Sidney Nearenberg; Boris and Olga Palant; Richard and Susan Marshall; Oliver Pomeroy; Michael Kaplan; Mrs. Dorothy H. Needle; Hal Bromm; and Mr. and Mrs. Alan Grossberg.
I would like to thank Tracy Besser for producing innovative websites for Natalya Nesterova’s exhibit and for the INTART Foundation, Petro Hrycyk for his fine photography, Vladimir Clavijo-Telepnev for his photograph portraits of Natalya Nesterova in her Moscow studio, Melissa Henry for her creative design, Suzanne St. John for her keen eye for color, and Victor Bennet Forbes, Editor-in-Chief and Co-founder, SunStorm Arts Publishing Co., Inc., for his devotion to the arts, sparkling energy and creativity which he used in putting this publication together. I extend my appreciation to Axel E. Solis, Assistant Managing Director, INTART Foundation, Mark Nearenberg, Esq., Joan Straumanis, Ph.D., Ronald Allan, Jr., Esq., Dr. Ori Z. Soltes, Joshua J. Kaufman, Esq., Vladimir Dobkin, and Nicolaas Soedjiman, for their great efforts on behalf of this exhibition.
And, in conclusion, it gives me great pleasure to express my very special gratitude to Parker H. Hallberg, Chairman, Board of Trustees, INTART - The International Art Foundation of Former Soviet States, Inc., for his support of the Foundation’s goal of making contemporary Russian art better known to the American public, and to Ira Smolin, Director, Foundation for Jewish Arts and Artists, whose mission is to find and promote artists whose voice speaks of their own time and culture. Ira Smolin was of great help in realizing the Nesterova project and his love of the arts and creative energy I value a great deal. As he put it: "Natalya Nesterova’s body of work is very personal and engaging. The viewer is invited into her paintings regardless of their environment, be they street scenes, parks, a restaurant, or the beach. Many of her figures appear to be caught in time. When will they move, where are they going? Is this an expression of Russia today? Enter her paintings and find out."

Alexandre Gertsman

President, INTART—The International Art Foundation of Former Soviet States, Inc.
Curator of the Natalya Nesterova Exhibit