Looking at the conception and reception of the recent Serov exhibition at the Tretyakov Gallery, this article explores how the show both expresses a desire to popularize a patriotic mode of cultural consumption and reveals present-day socio-cultural anxieties that the economic sanctions have triggered. Exploring the relevance of Serov’s aesthetics as well as the polyphony of the public perspectives on the show, I contend that the success of the exhibit is rooted in the palimpsestic nature of the event. The metaphor of the palimpsest allows describing multiple layers of cultural memory mobilized by the show: the nostalgia about Russia’s pre-revolutionary past, the Soviet endorsement of the queue, the pride in the national endurance during World War II. As I argue, the inadvertent popularity of the Serov exhibit demonstrates that ideology is most successful at triggering patriotic consumption in the post-Soviet space when it activates a palimpsest – a production that evokes different, at times contradicting, strata of cultural meaning.

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