News / Europe

Art Blooms in Russia Against Gray Political Backdrop

A painting of fallen Russian oligarchs Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev is displayed at the Central House of Artists in Moscow (file photo)
A painting of fallen Russian oligarchs Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev is displayed at the Central House of Artists in Moscow (file photo)

Multimedia

James Brooke

Russia’s authoritarian politics may be gray and conservative. But Russia modern art scene is colorful and eccentric.

A Lenin head is offered up on a dinner table. A pig-like policeman swills a bottle of vodka. And a near-naked man sits in a transparent cube, reading a book.

Welcome to the vibrant land of Russian modern art.

Russian liberals say politics are authoritarian and stage-managed by the Kremlin. But a few blocks away, at the Central House of Artists, the motto is: "Anything goes!"

American artist John Varoli has seen Russia art flourish since moving here in the early 1990s.

"Russia is quite grey and conservative overall,” Varoli said. “There are islands of creativity, prosperity, of avant-garde."

Varoli was speaking on the sidelines of the Kandinsky Prize show, which draws big crowds every year. Here you can find a jarring variety of paintings, sculptures and installations.

London gallery owner Tim Marlow flew to Moscow to participate in the jury.

"One of the things I sense when I am here is that there are artists that have that sense of something to kick against,” said Marlow. “That authority, whether its soft power or that specter of censorship - whether it is religious or on sexual or moral grounds - that hovers here. In the West, a lot of that has dissipated. In some ways it leads to a more confrontational art."

Some paintings mock Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Others take a whack at Russia’s 20th century icon - Vladimir Lenin.

Some Russian artists draw on their nation’s rich history and culture.

Mikhail Ivanov brought his painting of Yuri Gagarin’s cosmonaut helmet, and a piece that draws on memorabilia from his Soviet childhood.

He says that Russian art tries to be very cosmopolitan. It looks to the West and has lost its own roots.

Across town, at Vinzavod, a red brick wine factory converted into a popular gallery and studio complex, painter Chtak says that he is a painter of the world - who happens to live and work in Moscow. His paintings have shown in London and are not influenced by Russian themes, but by:

Chtak said, "Language, text, letters, history of art..."

Back at the Kandinsky, German gallery owner Volker Diehl says the Moscow art scene changes so rapidly that he has to come here several times a year to keep on his toes.

"There are younger generations that are pushing very hard,” said Diehl. “And the generations are changing every three or five years. And these young people are very innovative, very creative and very much Western oriented."

One modern art show last year drew 100,000 people in one month. In a nation notorious for its rules, Muscovites like modern art - a cultural fantasy island where there are no rules.

You May Like

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid