Off The Grass And Into The Galleries: St. Petersburg’s White Night Of Art
Once i first visited St. Petersburg, in 2004, the town laid scant claim to being a middle for contemporary artwork, past the exhibitions staged by the Russian Museum’s indefatigable Alexander Borovsky.
Timur Novikov had died in 2002, and the energy that had flamed up over the earlier two a long time in his charismatic wake seemed to have flickered out. The industrial gallery scene was barely embryonic.
Much has since modified, with the advent of a clutch of dynamic galleries (tempered by the demise of the excellent D-137) and new museum venues showcasing each home (Novy Muzei) and international art (Hermitage 20/21) — complemented by the deliciously offbeat Kuryokhin Contemporary Art Middle Awards.
A major upshot of this maturing scene has been the launch of the Association of Contemporary Artwork Institutes (ACAI), geared primarily at selling the city’s galleries. It now has thirteen members and its most ambitious event to date was staged at the tip of June — a gallery open night mixed with a joint show of installations by gallery artists.
This showpiece exhibition took place at New Holland, an 18-century shipyard on a triangular island on the River Moika, named after Peter the great’s favourite country. Tucked away between the Neva and the Mariinsky, 2.2 kilometers from the nearest Metro, Novaya Gollandia (as Russians quaintly call it), had been closed and forlorn for years before lurching into summer season-only life three years in the past, as one of those grungy, publish-industrial celebration locations that kind the social glory of an Eastern Europe delightfully unfettered by First World safety considerations.
On a bad day you can simply patrol New Holland’s 2.2-kilometer perimeter before discovering its discreet pedestrian entrance. Whereupon you stumble into a joyous oasis, teeming with Petersburg’s youngest and brightest. Pop bands blare. Russian pizzas sizzle. Many a stone island cheap clothes mojito is sipped and Coke possibly slurped.
New Holland’s sturdy brick warehouses enclose a dock and something usually smoked in St. Petersburg but seldom betrodden. On June 29, this was littered with a beguiling array of witty installations, whose ACAI umbrella title was both down-to-earth and misleadingly grand: Luzhaika (Lawn).
There were in fact tents. Andrey Rudyev’s, small and orange, artfully contained a miniature stone island cheap clothes landscape. Anatoly Belkin’s was larger, khaki brown and contained a skeleton in a pit. As not even installationists of Belkin’s maestrosity are allowed to dig up New Holland’s hallowed, if fairly scrubby turf, the tent was staked down on New Holland’s gravel concourse, next to an amusing wooden cubist determine by the versatile Ivan Plusch.
Meanwhile, again on the grass, Sasha Frolova’s white inflatable Miraclescope, described as “one thing between a telescope and a microscope” but extra like a large albino snake, was snarling at an anti-tank barrier made from luminous plastic tubes by Ivanov & Grachev (Cyland MediaArtLab). Away in the gap, in splendid isolation, Ilya Gaponov’s Touring Waves, an intriguing array of charred discs on poles, paid simultaneous tribute to the Last Judgment and eclipses of the solar. At the other end of the lawn ColorJuice’s Black Stone Family — seven shiny polycarbonate ‘stones’ able to change colour due to interior LED shows — appeared part of the ACAI present however weren’t.
May the gallery trail now beckoning, as the night’s most important course, stay as much as Luzhaika’s eclectic appetizer
ACAI had hired a bus to help guests discover out. Good job. In contrast to Moscow, where half-a-dozen galleries are clustered at Winzavod, there is no tight-knit gallery venue (and even district) in St. Petersburg and, except you’re in coaching for a marathon, touring its galleries on foot is a non-starter. That is, after all, the third-largest metropolis in Europe.
The ACAI bus nearly careered into the Baltic whereas exploring the depths of St. Petersburg’s decaying industrial hinterland before spurting throughout the Neva to Vasilievsky Island then ending its odyssey on Nevsky Prospekt deep into the White Midsummer Night.
First cease was the Rizzordi Art Basis, housed in what was once and nonetheless smells like an unlimited brick brewery. The work of 30 artists from Krasnodar and the Kuban region was fermenting on the third flooring. Spotlight was a deftly lit, trellis-like wood structure by the Subbotiny Brothers, entitled Cloak but resembling a praying mantis.
After the sweaty buzz upstairs at Rizzordi, the crowds were spilling down onto the street outdoors Artwork re.Flex, whose whimsical homage to Simferopol’s Nikolai Arendt (1833-93), the ‘grandfather of Russian aviation,’ took the type of Constructivist assemblages and linen embroidery concocted by his descendants Natalya and Maria. An improvising pianist in the brick-vaulted gallery basement added timeless class.
Elsewhere the temper veered from studious to reverential. Pinpoint spotlighting at Lazarev seconded giant canvases by Oleg Tselkov into stained-glass sublimity. Yuri Molodkovets’s monochrome, branch-patterned pictures at AL Gallery (nonetheless seeking a permanent nest, and set to relocate as soon as once more this summer season) demanded contemplation; the twee graphics and paper reduce-outs of Tel Aviv’s Yael Balaban and Noa Yekutieli, at Gisich, a fats wallet.
Video aficionados might enjoy Ilya Selitsky’s Present Indefinite at Anna Nova and Zane Balode’s schizophrenic Mirror installation at Novy Muzei, where what appeared to be mundane Japanese landscapes heaved into flashing fluorescence when the lights came down to a pulsating techno beat.
Dmitry Semenov rounded off the evening with a DJ, a bottle-swilling punk, and a little little bit of art.
Various moods, visual versatility: it had been a stimulating but exhausting eight hours of culture.
A lot for a single evening, nevertheless white. Parazit’s group show Wall on Wall, and Anna Frants’ tribute to American movie-maker Jonas Mekas, proved up the creek and off the radar so far as ACAI’s bleary-eyed bus driver was concerned.
No wonder the following event planned by the Association of Contemporary Artwork Establishments is to be a complete gallery weekend (October 4-6).
With Novaya Gollandia set to shut for years of renovation, a new showpiece venue may should be Stone Island News found. I would wish to counsel the venerable, 18-century Repin Academy, by the Neva, whose exuberant Rector, Semyon Mikhailovsky, is an Artwork Institution in his own proper.