As the centre of the avant-garde movement in Russia at the turn of the last century, St Petersburg never gave up its ties to barrier-breaking, gut-wrenching, head-scratching art. And since the end of communism the city has rediscovered its seething artistic underbelly.
Much of St Petersburg's contemporary art scene revolves around Pushkinskaya 10, a centre where artists and musicians continue to congregate and create (see p91). This place was 'founded'
Evgeny Tykotsky is an artist who has been living at Pushkinskaya 10 (p91) since its 'founding' in the late 1980s. His whimsical paintings have hung in the Russian Museum, the Anna Akhmatova Museum in the Fountain House and the Museum of Non-Conformist Art. We talked to Evgeny about the history of Pushkinskaya 10 .
In the late 1980s, these apartment blocks stood empty. No one lived here. The lifts were falling down; old grumpy cats ate the rubbish in the yard; there was no water or electricity. The houses were empty! One day, some artists, musicians and bandits wandered past and noticed that no one lived there and decided to move in. That was 1989. They moved in and took over. That was the squat.
I meant to move in therewith the rest. But first I went to borrow some money from my grandmother. Then I found myself a bottle of port wine [Do not confuse this with port! It's another be astie i7/f0§ef/w../andafterthat I couldn't move very well. Someone carried me into a spare room to sleep for a while. When I woke up, I saw my friends - well, they weren't friends yet, but they are friends anyway... They were all asleep with the sleep of the dead (possibly from port wine). So I found some Living Water and sprinkled them with it. They all woke up and started to paint...
This house was first filled with dilettantes, and professionals, and amateurs... but mostly it was filled with poets. It was filled with children of the Moon!
It all sounds very magical. How does that time - the late 1980s - compare with Pushkinskaya 10 today?
Well, how can you compare your youth and your first love with adulthood? You are now an adult, you are no longer 17 years old, you have had many loves... You like some, you don't like others, and if you don't like this one, well, never mind, he is gone now anyway. But your first love you remember your entire life. And that's how you might compare this period with what used to be.
That was a wild period. It was love and life; we drank wine and vodka; we painted, we fell in love... There was no light or water in the house. Bellonka - my neighbour above me-she had water and I had electricity. So in the evening I would borrow some water, then make supper on my little electric stove and invite her to sup with me... We would spend the evenings talking about family, about art, about all sorts of things. That's how our paintings were born. There were many marvellous times then.
Now we are a'Society of Artists'. There is something official about it all. It's like any living being: it's born like some dandelion underthe asphalt; then it grows and breaks through the asphalt. That's the first real life, that little growth! Then it grows up and it's a dandelion, and it loses its flower and fades... like us, we are all fading.
What do you have to say to artists today-young people who don't have the Living Water and the cats and the port wine to inspire them?
People -1 say this to any person, not just an artist: love and be loved. That's all, you don't need anything else. The rest will come. If someone stops loving you, you will be horribly upset, suffer and think and all that. And from that tragedy will be born a painting, music, poetry. And if you are loved, that will also give birth to art and poetry that is not coloured by tragedy. That's all. What else can I possibly wish them?
But of course, if those young ones need something, let them come, let them visit me personally! We will sit and talk! Perhaps they will understand something of this life then!
in the late 1980s, when a bunch of artists, musicians and other plagues on society moved into an abandoned building near PI Vosstaniya (see the boxed text, p49, for an insider's account of this history). The centre has since developed into an artistic and cultural institution that is unique in Russia, if not the world.
In the early 1990s Timur Novikov founded the neo-academic movement as an antidote to 'the barbarism of modernism'. This return to classicism (albeit with a street-level, junkshop feel) culminated in his foundation of the Museum of the New Academy of Fine Arts, which is housed at Pushkinskaya 10. Although he died in 2002, he continues to cast a long shadow on the city's artistic scene.
Over the years, the hodgepodge of artists, exhibits and studio space at Pushkinskaya 10 has grown. The centre is now officially known as the Free Culture Society, although it's still often referred to by its original address. In 1998 the Free Culture Society opened the Museum of Non-Conformist Art, with its own collection of'unofficial' art from the 20th and 21st centuries. Most importantly, the various museums and galleries at Pushkinskaya 10 showcase the ever-growing oeuvre of its member artists, including not only paintings but also photographs, sculptures, collages, videos, set and graphic designs, and music.
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