Art buffs may equate the one­time Rus­sian cap­i­tal with mas­ter­pieces from the past, but the city has plenty of more re­cent art­works to ad­mire as well.


A primer on the mod­ern art gal­leries of St. Peters­burg.

St. Peters­burg is syn­ony­mous with art thanks to the State Her­mitage Mu­seum. Founded in 1764 by Cather­ine the Great and opened to the pub­lic in 1852, it is just slightly smaller than the Lou­vre yet holds nearly 10 times more in its col­lec­tions. From an­cient Scythian gold jew­elry to mas­ter­pieces by Michelan­gelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and Ti­tian, the Her­mitage houses more than three mil­lion art­works, ob­jects, and ar­ti­facts. Much of that is dis­played in the jade-green Win­ter Palace, which stretches sev­eral blocks along the Neva River. Mod­ern paint­ings, in­clud­ing an un­par­al­leled col­lec­tion of Pi­cas­sos and Matisses, hang in the im­pos­ing Gen­eral Staff Build­ing just across from it on Palace Square.

But what about con­tem­po­rary art in this splen­did, canal-laced city on the Baltic?

Moscow is the com­mer­cial cen­ter of Rus­sia’s dy­namic art scene. Yet St. Peters­burg—the glo­ri­ous for­mer im­pe­rial cap­i­tal 635 kilo­me­ters to the north­west—has been en­joy­ing a cul­tural re­nais­sance of its own. These days, there are many fine gal­leries for afi­ciona­dos want­ing to ad­mire some­thing more re­cent than what the Her­mitage holds in its col­lec­tions.

Be­gin by head­ing across the Neva River from the city cen­ter to the Erarta Mu­seum ( on Vasi­lyevsky Is­land. The largest pri­vate mu­seum of con­tem­po­rary Rus­sian art in the coun­try, it holds nearly 3,000 pieces from over 300 artists. Erarta’s five floors in­clude in­stal­la­tion spa­ces, top-notch tem­po­rary ex­hi­bi­tions, and an ex­cel­lent per­ma­nent col­lec­tion that sur­veys the past half-cen­tury of Rus­sian art (es­pe­cially late-Soviet un­der­ground art). Don’t miss the gift shop, Erarta Home Stores, which sells sou­venirs and books along­side de­signer fur­ni­ture, home decor items, and even orig­i­nal pieces by Rus­sian artists.

Along a lovely stretch of the Fon­tanka Canal is the Ma­rina Gisich Gallery ( gisich

.com), open since 2000 and one of the old­est gal­leries in city. While rep­re­sent­ing a num­ber of lead­ing Rus­sian artists, owner Ma­rina Gisich con­tin­ues to show­case young tal­ents as well, among them the Siberia-born tex­tile artist Tanya Akhmetgalieva and Se­men Mo­tolyanets, co-founder of the lo­cal art group

SOAP. Ex­hi­bi­tions in the large, airy hall change ev­ery two months or so. The gallery also col­lab­o­rates on joint projects with other Euro­pean mu­se­ums and in­ter­na­tional art fairs.

A four-kilo­me­ter stroll up the Fon­tanka will bring you to KGallery (, home to an am­ple col­lec­tion of Rus­sian art that spans from the sec­ond half of the 19th cen­tury through the 20th cen­tury. Of par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est are works from the end of the Soviet era by artists who re­jected the of­fi­cially sanc­tioned style of so­cial real­ism. These in­clude pieces by the Len­ingrad (as St. Peters­burg was then called) un­der­ground of “non­con­formist” painters such as Mi­hail Chemi­akin, who was ex­iled in 1971 for his rad­i­cal ver­sions of tra­di­tional icon paint­ings. KGallery also holds key pieces from the “Eleven Group,” 10 painters and a sculp­tor who ex­hib­ited to­gether in the 1970s. Ev­ge­nia An­tipova, Zaven Ar­shakuni, Valery Vatenin, and the oth­ers shared cer­tain aes­thetic prin­ci­ples—their col­ors tended to be ful­some and ro­man­tic, even bold—as they sought free­dom of ex­pres­sion in a so­ci­ety inch­ing to­ward open­ness and Glas­nost. With such a strong col­lec­tion, the gallery’s two floors of ex­hi­bi­tion space have shown some of the most im­por­tant names in Rus­sian art since open­ing 12 years ago. Founded in 2005, the in­flu­en­tial Anna Nova Art Gallery ( anna con­tin­ues to fo­cus on 21st-cen­tury works, with an em­pha­sis on large-scale in­stal­la­tions. On show through Au­gust is an ex­hi­bi­tion of graph­i­cal pieces by a dozen Rus­sian and in­ter­na­tional artists that ex­plores abio­gen­e­sis, the the­ory that life on Earth orig­i­nated from non­liv­ing mat­ter.

Or­ga­niz­ing some 50 ex­hi­bi­tions a year that range from tra­di­tional pho­to­jour­nal­ism to video art, in­stal­la­tions, an­i­ma­tion, and ex­per­i­men­tal cin­ema, ROSPHOTO ( on his­toric Bol- shaya Morskaya Street is St. Peters­burg’s top pho­to­graphic gallery. Founded in 2002, it of­ten col­lab­o­rates with ma­jor in­ter­na­tional gal­leries to of­fer avant-garde ex­hi­bi­tions in two floors of gallery space and a build­ing in the court­yard. The small on­site gift shop car­ries a wide se­lec­tion of con­tem­po­rary pho­to­graphic books (in Rus­sian) and monochromatic post­cards. At the heart of St. Peters­burg’s al­ter­na­tive art scene is the

Pushkin­skaya 10 Arts Cen­ter (­skaya10). Ac­cessed from Ligov­sky Prospekt across from the city’s main train sta­tion, it oc­cu­pies a cou­ple of ram­shackle court­yard build­ings that house an eclec­tic range of gal­leries, work­shops, and small mu­se­ums. A sin­gle ticket cov­ers this mul­ti­fac­eted peek into post-Soviet coun­ter­cul­ture art; high­lights in­clude the two ex­hi­bi­tion spa­ces of the Mu­seum of Non­con­formist Art. The cen­ter is also home to cult mu­sic venue Fish Fabrique Nou­velle, where you can join ide­al­ists and rad­i­cals for a drink and a cou­ple of sets by a top band; re­cent acts have in­cluded Swedish punk rock­ers The Head­lines and the all-fe­male Rus­sian en­sem­ble Can­ta­dora. Ar­tis­ti­cally speak­ing, Pushkin­skaya 10 is as far from the re­gal, airy, and hushed halls of the Her­mitage as you can get.

Above: An in­stal­la­tion ti­tled Cherry Or­chard by Kon­stantin Polyakov at the Erarta Mu­seum. Op­po­site, clock­wise from left: Mu­sic, a new can­vas by lo­cal artist Ev­ge­nia Golant at Pushkin­skaya 10; the Erarta build­ing on Vasi­lyevsky Is­land; works by Moscow-born Kir­ill Chelushkin at the Ma­rina Gisich Gallery.

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