In 1967, in the course of a visit to Moscow, I was entertained one evening in the apartment of a young man who seemed to know a lot about the life of art in the Soviet Union at that time. He may also have been some sort of dealer, though it was difficult for an outsider like myself to ascertain very precisely what his situation was. He seemed to live well but to have no official position; he seemed to enjoy special privileges but to have no public claim to them—a combination of circumstances guaranteed to arouse suspicion. I was in the Soviet Union on assignment for The New York Times to write about Soviet art on the fiftieth anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, and I had been told that the young man in question could put me in touch with certain artists and with the people who collected their work.

In those days there was much talk and excitement about the kind of art that in the...


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