KABAKOV

Londoners have many opportunities to learn about Russian art these days. Tate Modern will open its doors tomorrow for art exhibition “Red Star over Russia” but today you can enjoy exhibition of Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, Russian artists, – “Not everyone will be taken into the future”.  You can visit the exhibition until January 28.

The artworks are displayed over 10 halls and the exhibition is carefully guided, so you do not get lost and follow the path naturally.

Some installations were a bit too much for my taste, but I fell in love with some paintings and illustrations. Kabakov is also a famous illustrator for children’s books and I was fascinated by the lightness of strokes and combination of colours in his illustrations.

One section of the exhibition was dedicated to letters of Ilya’s mother. She was writing to her son and telling him about her life story. It was interesting to have a glimpse of someone else’s life, but to be honest, it was a bit tricky to read. In this section curators did a poor job: letters in Russian were positioned low so you need to sit down a bit to read them and British translations were way above your head. So it was a challenge.

All in all I enjoyed the exhibition and it was a first exhibition of such a scale for Ilya and Emilia which made it very special.

 

Ivan Aivazovsky

Lately Moscow rocks with temporary exhibitions. Last winter it was Serov’s exhibition that has been extended twice due to high demand. This year it is Russian seascape painter, probably one of the best known Russian painters in the world, – Ivan Aivazovsky. His canvases are selling for hundreds of thousands by leading auction houses Christies and Sotheby’s.

Large space, dimmed light and neutral walls perfectly accommodate artworks. Large Baroque style frames add significance to the paintings and perfectly complement the colours. Pallet used for Aivazovsky paintings varies: some seascapes are captured at nighttime, some during bright day.

On the Shores of the Caucasus – 1885. Sublime. When you looking at this painting you are truly consumed by it. You can feel the power of nature and how it is greater than humankind. Although it depicts the crash of the ship, highlights on the painting give some hope and you feel like people can still escape.

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“A wave” 1889 Huge painting and not enough space in front to fully see it. However, it might be a curatorial idea – when you are standing so close you are boldly faced with the ocean and you are on the painting. Artist was particularly proud of this painting as he later said that it reflected all the years of his artistic experience.

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Marc Chagall

Museum of Marc Chagall is a gem of French Riviera. It is one of the best and intimate museums I have ever been to. This museum is the first museum that was dedicated to a living artist, it was opened in 1973 at the bottom of the Cimiez hill in Nice. This museums is unique because artist was curating it himself. So he could display everything exactly how he wanted and he fully realised his artistic potential.

The museum building was executed by Marc’s friend – Andre Malraux and was designed as a house. This is why the museum is rather small yet you can spend hours there. It is full of natural light which compliments the paintings. Marc Chagall was a music lover so he commissioned the auditorium which was build very quickly upon request. This hall has great acoustic and every year it opens to the public so they can enjoy musical concerts. Chagall decorated this auditorium with stained glass wall specially designed for the space.

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Marc Chagall lived across two centuries for almost 100 years, he was born in Liozna, Russian Empire  (present day Belarus) in 1887 and died in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France in 1985. Chagall was a multicultural artist: he was born Russian, died French and almost became American somewhen on the middle of his life. Chagall was born in a Jewish family and attended in a Jewish elementary school. At the age of 19 he enrolled into all-Jewish art school where he started his formal art education. After several months he moved to St Petersburg to study at Imperial Society for the Protection of Fine Arts.

Even though Realism was widely popular at that time Chagall developed his own dreamy-like style using bright colours and fairy-tail like shapes. Marc Chagall evolved into a multimedia artist, largely known for his oil paintings. He understood colour like no one else and it is absolute pleasure to look at his artworks. Apart from paintings he was widely successful in making stained glass windows. Although the technique is completely different, the colours of the glass are as bright and vivid as in his paintings. His stained glass windows can be seen across the globe, in the UK, in Germany, in Switzerland, in France, even in UN building.

His artworks are so special because they combine magnificent painting manner with touching subject matter. His art reflected his thoughts and sufferings. As a Jew he experiences persecution firsthand and it reflected on his paintings. They are extremely moving and personal. You can almost cry by looking at them.. I saw people crying in the museum standing in front of the paintings.

This museum experience was very intimate and personal. Each painting is a story and you stand there in front of it and unravel it layer by layer. His artworks are brilliant on so many levels – emotionally, visually and compositionally.

The heart of the museum is a room with only five paintings displayed in panoramic manner and they were placed by Chagall himself. The paintings are from the “The Song of Songs” series. It is an interpretation of book from the Hebrew Bible that celebrates love and sexual desire between a man and a woman. In this series Chagall illustrates the three motifs of the Song of Songs: the musical, sacred and sensual. The choice of red-pink pallet represents deep sweet love but also blood highlighting the violence in Biblical story. There is a bench where you can seat and spend some time tête–à–tête with these paintings. In this room no one talks, it is awfully quiet, everyone is absorbed by the artworks.

This is an incredible museum, full of intimacy and personality. Chagall’s art is full of colours and worry at the same time. It somehow appeals to everyone and viewers relate to it. If you are traveling in Nice do not miss it!

Russian Art at MacDougall’s

Today I visited preview of Russian Art Sale coming up on Wednesday, June 8 in MacDougall’s auction house. This auction is a part of a Russian Art Week in London (3rd to 10th of June): leading auction houses such as Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Bonhams conduct specialised sales in Russian Art. A lot of events are happening this week such as art exhibitions, lectures and workshops celebrating Russian culture.

The auction house was packed today and it was nice to hear many conversations discussing artworks in many languages. This time the crowd was extremely diverse, and to be honest, it was a pleasure to see a lot of interest from non-russians.

There were different types of art: paintings, photography, sketches, icons and porcelain figures. Subject matters were also very diverse – landscapes of classical Russian sceneries, portraits, some works had a political themes. Some artists were not very well known, however, there were some artworks by famous Russian artists such as Korovin, Aivazovsky and Lebedev.

The exhibition was over two floors: the layout of the first floor was museum like showcasing artworks individually, lower ground floor was a bit overwhelming with a lot of works.

Overall, it was a very pleasant visit with a lot of beautiful art. Entertaintment-wise there was live music which also created nice atmosphere. The estimated prices greatly varied, so whatever your budget is you can find something suitable.  Enjoy the photos!

 

One painting particularly moved me. It is an oil on canvas “Three Sisters” by Nikolai Bogdanov-Belshy (1868-1945). To be completely honest, I have never came across with his works before, but there was something about it very touching. These sisters look calm and maybe a bit sad at the same time, but there is something about their eyes that made me stop and stand there for a while.

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The World Through Women’s Eyes

In the very heart of Moscow one of the main boulevards – Tverskoi Boulevard is used as exhibition space. Every quarter or so the exhibition changes. This time it was an exhibition of contemporary photography – The World Through Women’s Eyes. All photographers showcased are women. It is rare, let’s be honest, considering that majority of photographers are men; but this is a step forward. 

There is a verity of themes: family, nature, architecture even cars. Each section out of ten consisted of 7 photographs by one artist. It is a shame that some descriptions were limited and did not give any background on a photographer. 

I liked some works, however, some did not look so professional to me. It looked like someone abused Instagram filters… 

The exhibition is placed in open air and absolutely free. It allows everyone who is passing by to stop for a minute and admire contemporary photographs. It is a good way to spread beauty and educate people.

Street Art in Moscow – level up

I love Street Art!

Street Art in Moscow is taken to a whole different level. It might be a debate in some countries if it is legal or not but in Moscow authorities have taken this matter in their own hands. Street Art in Moscow is created with cultural and educational purpose.

Aeroflot, the most successful Russian airline and a member of Skyteam Alliance, carried out a series of large scale artworks. Graffiti shows beautiful portraits of flight attendants with elements of famous Russian cities such as Kazan, Kaliningrad, St Petersburg and others. The images are beautiful, colourful and pleasant to look at but they also promote a number of cultures across Russia and promote tourism. Sure thing it is a marketing tool for the airline but it makes streets look better and more enjoyable place to walk.

Another thing that caught my eye was a development with tall buildings with animal paintings on the side – zebra, elephant and giraffe. Apparently it was there for 3 years already but I never saw it. It is very impressive – twenty-something-storey paintings especially when they are beautifully executed. It was idea of a construction company responsible for the project. But its not only to decorate streets but also to educate, each animal has a short description written on the eye level as well as a small map of natural habitat for these wild creatures.

There are also many ongoing competitions for best graffiti among young artists as the government is promoting culture and talents through creating a challenge for artist to create a themed graffiti, some are devoted to historic figures, some to going to space. It is lovely to see how the city is changing  and getting more and more colourful but it is also good to realise that pretty pictures have meaning. These collaboration of street artists and municipal authorities is a brilliant way to enhance creativity and decorate a city. Well done!

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The Art of Ballet

Russian Ballet is something out of this world. It is absolutely amazing. Last night I went to The Sleeping Beauty in Bolshoi Theatre and I am still under impression. 

Every detail was beautiful: costumes, decorations, movements, orchestra, hall – everything. Ballerinas looked weightless, elegant and fragile. They did not make a sound.. It is amazing how ballerinas’ movements can look so effortless considering how much hard work they put in every day. How many people were involved in production –  producers, choreographers, costume developers, lighting, sound, music and of course dancers themselves. It is a pure form of art.

It would not be so beautiful if it were not for the dancers. They dance so brilliantly due to everyday rehearsals and never ending learning process, tons of hard work through pain. Ballet is not only about choreography but also acting, it is an art of telling a story without words through movements and body language. 

Ballet is hard everywhere but Russian school is especially strict. For a ballet dancer performing on the Bolshoi’s Theatre stage is like winning a Nobel Prize every day. 

I also want to note orchestra and their attitude towards each other. I was sitting at the balcony so I had a good view on orchestra pit. Music was beautiful it goes even without saying. Pyotr Tchaikovsky is a treasure of Russian classic music. When the performance ended everyone in the orchestra shook hands of their neighbours and congratulated each other on great performance. It was very moving. 

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Truly amazing. Everything. If anyone has a chance of going to Bolshoi Theatre, make yourself a favour – do not miss it!

P.S. Photos are not great. To be honest it is not permitted to take photos but I could not resist.

Paris – the city of artists

Cite Internationale des Arts is an international art foundation in Paris in “the Marais” district, which welcomes artists from all over the globe. The foundation provides 284 studios for painters, sculptors, musicians, photographers and dancers. In order to be selected, each artist has to submit a project, and a comity decides if the artist gets the place. The prices are affordable and all studios are designed for working and living. The most exciting thing is to live in Paris and explore museums, galleries and foundations.

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During studios’ open day group of Sotheby’s Institute students visited Russian painter Alexei Lantsev, who was staying in the studio with his wife, who is also a painter, for the second time. We were discussing art, Russian art market, drinking wine and eating cheese.

Alexei Lantsev is working in different styles, he creates figurative art as well as abstractions.  Russian public is not quite ready for contemporary art, and Alexei is trying to build that bridge between figurative and abstract art. In Paris he was working on recreating famous traditional paintings in “modern” way using primary colours.

The artist told us what is different about working in Paris comparing to working in Moscow: nothing distracts him and he can be consumed in painting process all day long, whereas, in Moscow there is always something stands on the way like “grocery shopping or celebrating grandmothers birthday” added the artist. He also said that when you live in the city you don’t appreciate the museums and never have time for visiting it. However, in Paris, you appreciate museums more, Alexei went to Louvre 3 times one week. The artist also said that everything about Paris is inspiring, even aimlessly wondering in the streets.

As Vincent van Gogh once wrote to his brother Theo: “There is but one Paris and however hard living may be here, and if it became worse and harder even – the French air clears up the brain and does good – a world of good”. I guess there is something inspiring about Paris, that attracts artist from all over the world.

Bolt

GRAD gallery for Russian Art and Design exhibition “The Bolt” brings us back to early 1930s’ when this experimental ballet was developed in Leningrad. Leningrad Academic Theatre of Opera premiered “The Bolt”, but due to extremely negative critics’ reviews the first performance was also the last. The ballet was forgotten for a long time, but a more modern version by Alexei Ratmanskii appeared on the stage of The Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow in 2005. All the costumes were designed using the original 20th century sketches, created by Tatiana Bruni in the 1930s. The music was also the original – written by the Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich. This time around the ballet was seen as a smart satiric presentation of social realism.

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The exhibition, curated by Elena Sudakova, is about how “The Bolt” was created: it includes photographs, original posters, and sketches of the costumes, as well as mannequins in crafted outfits.

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The preview of the exhibition was on 5th of December and was a very unique experience. The room was filled with visitors watching actors who were recreating characters from the ballet. The actors were not disturbed by the crowd and changed positions like human statues.

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How the walls were painted especially fascinated me. The space was visually “broken” into two: the physical room defined by corners and an illusion of a different room when looking only at the paint. This looks fresh, modern and interactive.

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I am very glad that there is a non-for-profit gallery in the centre of London where Russian culture is represented and now can be discovered.