Dead Nations. Eternal version

ETRU – National Etruscan Museum of Villa Giulia, Rome

11 June - 26 September 2021

Evgeny Antufiev’s relationship with the archaeological heritage embedded in our territory and belonging to our museums is a long-chaptered novel. Thus, this is a fascination that Antufiev has for the signal and symbolic stratification of artefacts; for the profound echo of ancient stories that continue to speak to us in the halls of museums. What better synchronicity for an artist who has always explored the idea of immortality and regeneration through the archetypes of human existence and imagination in an endless story?

In this chapter, the encounter is with the National Etruscan Museum of Villa Giulia, an important repository of the mysterious Etruscan civilisation that - as well as Antufiev’s creative process – absorbed and spread their contacts and relations to multiple civilisations (from East to West, from the Phoenicians to the Greeks, to the Carthaginians) and has created a peculiar, very close relationship with the characteristics of the individual territories, in which, it has been located, generating something absolutely new. Antufiev’s work transports in time and space the symbolic figures that have always accompanied human existence and imagination into endless stories.

This exhibition was produced with Malevich Collaboration

Installation view: Evgeny Antufiev, Dead Nation: Eternal Version, Villa Giulia, Rome, IT, 11 June - 26 September 2021


His ceramics, as well as the bronze castings, whose textures and oxidised surfaces are treated with patina and particular baths, evoke ancient discoveries and resemble a "gift" found in the subsoil. The presence of a figure in transformation goes well with the Etruscan iconographic repertoire, which is beautifully illustrated in the objects exhibited in the Museum of Villa Giulia. The formal outcome is intriguing, labyrinthine, and absolutely unique: Antufiev’s works take on a hybrid identity, they are capable of generating assonances between different worlds and cultures, but inevitably they are filtered through the culture of the artist's country of origin, Siberia, and the Russian folk tradition in the way materials are treated.

A travertine obelisk that stands in the museum’s garden welcomes us and acts an invitation to the celebration of what cannot be swallowed by oblivion, of what cannot die. Perhaps this is itself, the ultimate purpose of a museum? The exhibition develops from a specific wing of the museum, by grafting into its framework and creating an exchange with its current heritage. Some small interventions in the display cabinets do not interrupt the historical collections: Antufiev reinterprets these objects - originally created for functional and decorative purposes – and transforms the visual features of an artefact into a work of art. Many of these objects, found in tombs as grave goods (a testimony to the importance of a rite of fundamental passage between life and death), offer a figurative repertoire comprising, above all, fantastic animals drawn from orientalist bestiaries that stood as the guardians of tombs: an iconography which is strongly present in Antufiev’s formal research.

Finally, the exhibition envisions a phantasmagorical museum room created inside the museum itself: a fictitious space in which the artist stages, inside display cases and cabinets, an imaginative relationship between objects and figures, most of which are fusions and terracotta, as a tribute to the refined Etruscan craftsmanship that was expressed above all with these materials.

Marina Dacci

Celebration of Life

Evgeny Antufiev’s extensive research of extinct cultures and its artefacts lead his artistic practice to the creation of art objects that manifest as symbols of ‘no-time’: mirrors, warriors, masks, knives and vessels hold cultural relevance for any era, therefore the ongoing dialogue between found ancient objects and newly made artistic items becomes a celebration of life, passing from earlier centuries into our contemporary world and the future, spreading from the museum context to contemporary and future households, bonding our memories with the reality of future generations.

Patterns Evgeny draws within his practice are not solely a constellation of objects: the marble obelisk sharpened into space in the middle of Villa Giulia stands as another solid element on the world map of human made obelisks, adding Rome as a part of Cairo, Paris, New York, Vatican, Istanbul, Luxor, Judea obelisks constellation, connecting ancient times with rising contemporary culture.

The embodiment of new art objects into existing museum and even urban environments always resets its spacial dynamics, and in Antufiev’s case, elevates it to an awakening level of synergy, which hasn’t existed before. The artist and his world of objects are incorporated into the space of Villa Giulia, historically charged with various codes and meanings, bringing to us new sensations, that manifest our time as deeply connected with past and future, which are beautifully weaved within each other into a timeless language of art.

Svetlana Marich

Installation view: Evgeny Antufiev, Dead Nation: Eternal Version, Villa Giulia, Rome, IT, 11 June - 26 September 2021


Two time Kandinsky prize winner Evgeny Antufiev is known for exploring the construction of myths and using symbolically charged materials that, through his distinctive juxtapositions, are transformed into elements within his own idiosyncratic world order. His immersive installations consist of archetypes within the language of myths: heroes, weapons, beasts, chalices, disguises, which together combine into a narrative structure.

Essential to the artist’s practice is the deliberate ambiguity of his works’ temporal origins; Antufiev’s choice of forms and materials convincingly take on the guise of the archaic in an attempt to disturb a linear chronology. The artist has explained, ‘I like it when an exhibition turns into an archaeological object, when you look and try to understand what these objects are for. You try to decipher the symbols. You take on the role of an archaeologist.’

Born in 1986 in Kyzyl, Russia, Evgeny Antufiev has been awarded the Kandinsky Prize ‘Project of the Year’ for his projects: When Art Becomes Part of the Landscape, Part I, curated by Marina Dacci, Salinas Museum, Palermo, IT; When Art Becomes Part of the Landscape, Part II, curated by Svetlana Marich, Konenkov Museum Russian Academy of Arts, Moscow, RU;When Art Becomes Part of the Landscape, Part III, curated by Svetlana Marich, Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow, RU


Villa Giulia holds a long and storied history of religious ritual, artistic endeavour and cultural upheaval. First commissioned in 1551 by Pope Julius III as a papal retreat, the buildings construction was undertaken by leading figures of Renaissance art, such as Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola, Giorgio Vasari and Bartolomeo Ammannati, with Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni also being rumoured to have worked there.

Now, many centuries on, it finds life anew as host to the world's largest collection of Etruscan artefacts. These mysterious people predated the Romans, leaving behind a number of ornate and beautiful works that speak to a society rich in arts and culture. This diverse lineage of art, religion and cultural history makes Villa Giulia the perfect home to the latest exhibition of works by two time Kandinsky Prize (2009, 2019) winning artist Evgeny Antufiev.

The ageless aesthetic of his oeuvres, coupled with his ability to transform functional everyday objects into timeless works of artistic beauty allows for a remarkable dialogue with the past. Antufiev exposes oblique connections hidden between past and present, seeking out the intangible glimpse of eternity which exists at the interception of art and ritual.

In 'Manifesta 11' The European Biennial of Contemporary Art (Zurich, 2016) the artist enters into conversation with Pastor Martin Rüsch to develop the show
'Eternal Garden' (2016) which was displayed in a deconsecrated cathedral, exploring the eternal overlap of art and religion.

For 'Manifesta 12' (Palermo. 2018) Antufiev’s 'When art became part of the landscape' (2018) similarly channelled the artist's fascination with human rituals of remembrance, exhibiting within the elegant halls of Museo Salina in order to blur the line between architecture, artworks and artefact. Displaying his work at Villa Giulia perfectly bridges its historical divides, unifying Renaissance architecture and Etruscan artefact, papal retreat and public museum, to find a timeless, universal truth concealed within the innate humanity of the creative act.
Made on