Artistic education issues closely related to the development paradigm of the domain of art and its transformation in a given social and cultural context have always been relevant. It is the sphere of artistic education that sets the foundation for cultural development in the future. The prospects of artistic culture depend on whether its vital problems are addressed today, on the choice of priority directions and strategies to support, and on identifying the guiding values in this sphere. Who will be the successors? Which trends in its prospective development will prevail? Will the accumulated spiritual values and achievements gained at the earlier development stages not be lost? Will the innovation processes influence the sphere of artistic education? And what is the role of such education in the system of contemporary artistic culture and in the processes of Uzbekistan’s contemporary art integrating into the global culture?

In the domain of artistic education The Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan created its own multi-tier system that comprises thirteen fine and decorative art lyceums, three colleges of arts and the National Institute of Arts and Design named after K. Bekhzad. In the regional centres the art lyceums function not only as education institutions, but also as cultural hearths hosting meetings with artists and traditional master-craftsmen and serving as exhibition venues.

The National Institute of Arts Design
named after K. Bekhzad.

By and large, contemporary system of artistic education in Uzbekistan became a successor to the academic education system that had functioned for many decades; its primary objective is a system of realistic representation of the surrounding world. The studies of this system as academic subject-matter reveal its close relationship with the development of contemporary fine and decorative/applied arts in Uzbekistan, specific manifestation of traditions and innovations in this sphere, and the functioning of youth culture in the system of contemporary art. Issues of artistic education at the lyceum level are supervised by the Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan and the Ministry of Public Education, and at the college and institute level — by the Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan and the Ministry of Higher and Secondary Professional Education.

The domain of artistic education certainly has its own quantitative and qualitative indicators, as well as positive results and problematic issues that need to be addressed. These will be discussed in greater detail in what follows.

The Republican College of Arts.

A lot has been done over the past ten years. Every school of the Academy of Arts has its history, its special ways of training in certain professions, and its own achievements. New departments and professions have been instituted; higher education has moved to the Bologna system; post-graduate course has been opened at the Bekhzad National Institute of Arts and Design (NIAD); in the framework of cooperation and exchange agreements international relations with foreign schools of higher education are developing. Students from Uzbekistan take an active part in different international contests and win prestigious awards. For instance, a student from the Republican college of arts A. Abduraimova was awarded a silver medal at the International Children’s Drawing Contest called «Egypt as Children See It»; K. Nigmatullina earned a diploma and a prize for the original interpretation of drawing at the contest of young artists in Slovakia; A. Turdikulov, a student of the Republican lyceum of fine and decorative/applied arts, was awarded a great medal at the International children’s art contest «Shankar-1997» (India); O. Islamov won a special prize at the 10th International Exhibition of Children’s Drawings in Kanagawa (Japan, 1999); M. Sulemin earned a silver medal at the 8th International Children’s Drawing contest in Tokyo (2001), etc. These examples testify to the talents of our country’s young artists and the achievements of our artistic education system.

Freedom of artistic creation serves as a kind of indicator of democratic processes in modern society. Unfortunately, in the domain of interaction between artistic education and culture there is a shortage of comprehensive and regularly updated information on the achievements made in the global artistic process, on the evolvement of new positions and creeds, and on modern information technologies. At the level of lyceums, colleges and the NIAD there are problems such as:

  1. Absence of appropriate interaction between education and overall global development trends, which brings about the need of certain changes in this sphere;
  2. The evolvement of inter-cultural cooperation and interaction is not of adequate level;
  3. The environment for the essential transition to the post-industrial, information society is not in place;
  4. Teaching is based on art literature published 20-30 years ago;
  5. Attempts to compile electronic art libraries;
  6. Attempts to introduce computer-based equipment, tele- and video demonstration;
  7. Domination of a formal approach to the monitoring of prospective demand in various skills and qualifications on labour market;
  8. Poor foreign language skills of students;
  9. The absence of a comprehensive art education concept in the country.
Staff members of the Academic Research
Institute of Art Studies and participants
of the International Theatre Conference.

Entry into the global cultural space requires careful study of the experience of similar education institutions in advanced countries, which have different models of education strategies and priorities. For example, the Repin Institute of Architecture, Painting and Sculpture (Russia) demonstrates its continued adherence to the system of academic realism. At the same time, in 1990s the CIS countries witnessed the emergence of innovative non-governmental education institutions like the European Humanitarian University in Saint-Petersburg, or the Institute of Contemporary Art in Moscow, where the curricula show a sign of departure from the habitual academic system, and new integrative subjects are introduced, which include a number of special courses that enable to update and modernize their content and broaden the world outlook of young artists.

Perhaps, at the foundation of the concept for the national artistic education should be the following aspects:

  • Appreciation of artistic education as especially significant sphere of activity that plays an important role in the evolvement of spiritual self-awareness of the society;
  • Broadening of the world outlook and intellectual level of young people;
  • The integration of education into culture and culture into education;
  • The bringing up of a free, humane and creative personality;
  • The expansion of inter-disciplinary approaches to the education process, taking into account the balance of political, cultural, ethnic and national values;
  • Publication of new textbooks and learning materials on the history and theory of art;
  • Updating the system of retraining of pedagogues, taking into account contemporary social and cultural context and the dynamics of global artistic education;
  • The development of university-based science;
  • Greater role of modern information technologies in education process;
  • Identifying the prospects of cooperation with artistic intellectuals in other countries.

Over the past ten years a lot has been done in the domain of art history in Uzbekistan. Since 1997 the paradigm of scientific development of the art history school of Uzbekistan has been determined by the understanding of true values of the national culture and its unexplored aspects, and in some cases by the studies of already known material from a new standpoint and with new methodological approaches.

The primary academic centre for the studies of artistic culture of Uzbekistan and for the training of academic staff in the field of art history was and remains the Scientific Research Institute of Art History. Notwithstanding certain difficulties associated with the transition of science to the grant-based financing system and changes in the habitual financial and economic relations, the Institute staff make valuable contribution to the development of art history science not only in the country, but also in the region at large.

Scholars are doing major work to study the role of artistic culture in the historical formation of civilization and statehood in the country and to research main trends in the development of different kinds of artistic culture in Uzbekistan in the 20th century. Currently there is an ongoing research into the matters of the Sufi tradition in the art of Uzbekistan in the 15th-17th centuries, Islamic spirituality and philosophy in the cultural heritage of the peoples of Uzbekistan, the role of traditional heritage in the country’s fine arts during independence, stage interpretation of Uzbek drama of the 20th and early 21st centuries, and the art of performance; they study socio-cultural aspects of the artistic culture development dynamics in Uzbekistan.

Meeting of the academic council of the
Academic Research Institute
of Art Studies. 2006.

Over the past period a number of anniversary publications were produced, such as «Moziydan taralgan ziyo» to mark the 1225th anniversary of Imam Al-Bukhari; «Bukhara, the Pearl of the Orient» to celebrate the 2500th anniversary of Bukhara; «Khiva, the City of thousand Domes» to mark the 2500th anniversary of Khiva; a collectively authored monograph titled «Qarshi: Glorious Past and Great Future», as well as three-volume edition «Oriental Miniatures», a series of albums about the country’s museum collections, a catalogue-album in Japanese language titled «The Great silk Road and Its Heritege», and many others. There are regular publications of academic work collections, conference materials, monographs on rather broad and diverse subject-matters of art history and theory (over 50 titles). International and republican level scientific conferences and seminars are also held; among them are: «Kamaliddin Bekhzad and Oriental Art» (2005); «Musical Instruments of the Peoples of Orient» (1999); «India and Central Asia» (2000); «Folklore and Traditional Art in Contemporary Artistic Culture» (2002); «Urban Culture of Uzbekistan» (2003); «Scientific and Methodological Problems in Art History» (2005). It has become a tradition to hold annual scientific and theoretical youth conferences organized jointly with Kamolot Foundation.

International contacts have also been established in the academic field. Among them, specifically, is an agreement signed with Japanese scholars from the Silk Road Institute on joint archaeological excavations at Dalverzintepa, and the participation in the «Great Silk Road» exhibition in Japan (1999). Scholars from Uzbekistan are regular participants of international scientific-theoretical conferences abroad; their articles are published in periodicals and collections in different countries. The experience of cooperation between Uzbek scholars and German magazine «Orient» is indicative.

The author would like to mention specifically the activities of the Specialized Academic Council of the Art History Research Institute. Over the past ten years 32 candidate and 15 doctoral theses were defended by both domestic and foreign applicants from Japan, Jordan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. The country’s scholars are carrying out active awareness work through mass media, covering various aspects of art in Uzbekistan.

The country’s art history of today represents a distinctive research school with its own history, traditions, leading personalities, or, if one may put it this way — signature personalities of the national culture, whose efforts contribute to the continuity in scientific achievements and the transfer thereof to the next generations. These scholars are F. Karamatov, M. Kadyrov, E. Rtveladze, A. Khakimov and many others. They developed the main scientific areas in contemporary art history of Uzbekistan and trained academic cadres.

Yet, at the same time, contemporary art history of Uzbekistan is a developing sector bearing the signs of the current socio-cultural context. This is the sector where progress is impossible today without active international cultural links, without integrating scientific research of our scholars into global scientific processes, without learning from the research experience, scientific strategies and methodological developments in other countries, or without implementing major national and regional scientific projects.

The 20th century has turned out to be the age of major transformations in all spheres of life, including public awareness, spirituality and culture. For art historians and culture students still relevant are the issues of learning from historical and cultural heritage, both historically evolved and introduced through the artistic practice in the 20th century. The place of contemporary national artistic culture in the global context is yet to be determined and studied in the light of socio-cultural transformations of modern society. Of special significance in the 21st century — the century of the dialogue of cultures and the culture of dialogue — is the study of ethno-cultural identities and inter-relations that have their own deeply rooted historical background. The personality of the artist and creator, inter-relations between the artist and society, the man and culture, and the man and spirituality remain the focus of our researchers’ attention. At the same time, the inter-textuality of contemporary artistic culture of Uzbekistan provides a lot of room for theoretical quests of the researcher’s thought.

Contemporary art history of Uzbekistan has the necessary intellectual, out-looking and scientific/theoretical potential for a full-fledged prospective development and entry into international cultural and academic arena. Although a lot has been achieved over the past period, domestic art history still has many tasks to accomplish in relation to the studies of various aspects of such a complex, multi-tier and unique phenomenon as the artistic culture of Uzbekistan.

Kamola Akilova