Discover Erarta. Discover yourself.

Erarta is the first museum of contemporary art in St. Petersburg and the largest private museum in Russia. The museum’s absolute focus and priority are concentrated on the most important person at Erarta – the visitor. Erarta aims to involve each one of its guests in the process of experience and perception of art because a work of art never exists just by itself, as a standalone object or concept. Rather, it only exists thanks to those who understand it, perceive it and make it part of their world. It is in the interaction between the artist and the viewer that art is truly born – the creative impulse generated by the artist is picked up, processed and amplified by the audience, thus making the work of art a part of life, a reality. Everyone can find something interesting in contemporary art and as a result, learn more about him or herself. Contemporary art provokes the viewer to search for answers, think of a great variety of ideas and feel a wide range of emotions. All those elements of experiencing art are part of a deeply personal and highly individual journey that one can only embark upon with a conscious desire to do so. Erarta Museum’s role in this process is creating the right conditions for it by showcasing something truly worthwhile that is capable of moving the viewer to wanting to understand oneself, to find their place in the world, to see and accept life. As you take the tour of Erarta, you’ll see many works that touch upon eternal philosophical themes because the museum’s main goal is to do everything so that people who come to Erarta see that contemporary art is both about them and for them, that the world is big and everyone has a place in it. Erarta aims to bring people and art closer together by creating a continuous stream of ideas, programmes and projects that encourage visitors to take part in a spiritual and intellectual journey, which will ultimately bring a sense of belonging and satisfaction. Thus, Erarta is able to grow the worldwide audience of people who understand, appreciate and love contemporary art and given that love of art can make any individual’s life more interesting and fulfilling, spreading a passion for art ultimately makes the world a happier place. The name of the Erarta Museum is derived from uniting two words, “Era” and “Arta”, whose combination can be translated from Russian as “the era of art”. The very first thing that all guests see when visiting the museum are the two sculpture of Era and Arta in front of the building, which were especially created for Erarta by the St. Petersburg artist Dmitry Zhukov.

Era of Art, Dmitry Zhukov, From the collection of: Erarta Museum of Contemporary Art
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The allegorical figures located in front of the museum’s classical facade thus attest, solemnly and ironically, to the approach of the “Era of Art.” The headless and armless goddesses of victory are attuned to our polyphonic post-modern era, where the conceptual cohabits with the irrational, and man-made objects breed a new anthropomorphism.

Christmas, Sazhin Nikolay, 1982, From the collection of: Erarta Museum of Contemporary Art
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Diary of a mad man

Why do we come into this world? It is cold and colorless here. Nobody is waiting for us — there is not a single human being, just dead trees in their snowy shrouds and dreary animal snouts all around. And then there is this threatening tolling of bells that fills all the space and subdues everything. The frost is so strong that the tolling of the bells does not dissipate but rather freeze in the frost after their sounds desist; and the dead sounds crowd into the space still mixed with live ones, as the woods become more and more packed with sound; and for those who have heard this, the tolling seems to get louder and louder. There is nowhere to hide from these dreary sounds and the terrible cold, because we are in a circle. In a circle there is no safe hiding place, no nook where you can get warm, no comfortable place to rest.There is no refuge in a circle — only endless wandering, for the circle is a time trap. A circle has no special points by which to measure your progress; therefore, within a circle, time has neither beginning nor end. In a circle you are always as exposed as a gladiator in the arena. You are never all alone, never by yourself, and therefore will never find your unique identity — you will always be not just you, but also a myriad of all the other strangers who share their living space with you, A circle is ideal, and against its background you perceive your imperfection most acutely. A circle is indifferent. It does not have anything special. It is like a human being without a face. A circle is hopeless. A vicious circle. A ring; a noose; a trap. A circle would drive anyone and everyone insane. And finally, the most terrible secret of a circle: All circles are the same. When you move from one circle into another, you understand dearly that nothing has changed. A big circle is no better than a small one and does not provide you with any more freedom. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here! Happy Birthday!

Marina Varvarina (a viewer's opinion)

Bird, Figurina Elena, 2003, From the collection of: Erarta Museum of Contemporary Art
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This bird resembles the seagull named Jonathan Livingston from the eponymous book by Richard Bach, or a farewell haiku composed by a samurai before death and carefully drawn with sadness on a piece of paper with a brush.

A bird follows the setting sun. No islands in the ocean. How heavy are the wings!

A true master stands out in that the fewer details are contained in their work, the more can be found in it. This painting is laconic even by Figurina’s standards — there’s almost no colour, as if the colours of life are leaving it, its drawing seems unfinished, seemingly emerging from its surroundings but immediately dissolving back in them. You inadvertently catch yourself asking the question – is it even a bird? Is it flying? It looks as if a fragile bridge connects two banks of the river. It seems that the painting wasn’t created by an artist, but rather, has a natural origin, like the “Autumn Landscape” by Hokusai, with maple leaf traces left by the lark unleashed by the great Japanese master from a bucket with red and yellow paint onto a blank canvas. The imagery of birds and wings is often found in Elena Figurina’s works. A good half of the works in this room is dedicated to the concept of possibility and impossibility of flight. Her Icarus flies stubbornly towards the sun, the Bird-people are afraid of the heights, the girl from “The Dance” painting has spread her arms in anticipation of flight, the Angel struggling with Jacob is flapping his wings in militant fashion and those Holding the bird are both afraid and intrigued by flight, her Lazarus, resembling a butterfly pupa, is fearfully waiting to discover whether his wings will emerge when it’s time for that cocoon to fall away. Unlike other works of Figurina, her “Bird” gives the impression of the artist trying to comprehend and portray flight itself, not through characters. It’s hard to imagine the solution to this problem, isn’t not how one ought to draw flight as Figurina has done – the heavy geometry of two parallel vertical lines that cut the canvas, making the bird look static, motionless, almost crucified on its own wings. In the crucifix, the vertical of the cross symbolizes the union of the sky and the earth, while the horizontal – that of Christ’s embrace, open to all. Figurina’s vertical field wings are simultaneously both that and the other, for wings are an embrace, connecting the skies and the earth in flight. This feeling is enhanced by the lighter tint of the upper wing, making it akin to a cloud and the grounding effect of darkening of the lower. It’s clear why the parallel verticals extend beyond the canvas — only infinite wings can simultaneously embrace both the skies and the earth. But how does one take off? How to make the parallels crossing, forming wings to enable the flight? How to make flight possible? This mission would have seemed absolutely impossible for a small bird, looking injured because of the impression of a bandaged head, but the fact that this head is stubbornly raised up tells us that while we’re alive, there’s still hope. There is the hyperbolic geometry of Lobachevski where parallels actually meet, and there’s Richard Bach, who said: “This is a test to see if your mission is finished on Earth. If you are alive, it is not”.

Marina Varvarina (a viewer's opinion)

Butterflies, Korolev Aleksandr, 1999, From the collection of: Erarta Museum of Contemporary Art
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I forgot how your voice sounds … did I even hear it?
I didn’t ask your name, but then again, do I even need to know it?
We were together only once, but it seems a like a long time. Butterflies live a whole life in one day.
Nothing reminds me of that day but why, when I find myself with a piece of paper, do I draw the signs of our bodies again and again?

Marina Varvarina (a viewer's opinion)

Black Cliffs (triptych), Tatarnikov Petr, 2007, From the collection of: Erarta Museum of Contemporary Art
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Pyotr Tatarnikov “Black rocks” series represents the deepest meditation, relaxation and simultaneously, acute spiritual concentration. In order to gain that kind of experience today, man must abandon civilization and climb Tibetan mountains, or in Russia, make a pilgrimage to the monasteries of the North. The artist has definitely found the expression of the theme he’s passionate about – northern bare rocks are associated both with pagan rituals and heathen temples, as well as Christian monasteries and hermitages. Humans are eternally attracted to these kinds of enigmatic “places of power”, longing for inner harmony and self-acceptance. And what can be more harmonious than grey on grey in the midst of endless silence and solitude…?

M.Yagushevskaya (a viewer's opinion)

Spring, Gracheva Ekaterina, 2005, From the collection of: Erarta Museum of Contemporary Art
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Eternal Theme

Young heroes against the backdrop of a dappled spring sun... Such scenes and a picturesque artistic style brings us back to the 1970’s, when popular exhibits had such titles as "Youthful Painting" or "In the Vastness of the Motherland." Indeed, the painting techniques of the academic school (to which the artist belongs) do not change much over time. But after the first impression, the overall one turns out rather differently. Looking at the heroic figures, you understand: It’s the "Holy Family,” set for us in an idyllic but also contemporary reality. The strange presentation of this eternal theme envelops several educational and academic styles of painting, and gives the work its sense of cosmic dimension and timelessness. And as always, Mary bows carefully over the Christ child: and Joseph, just as he has done for the last 2000 years, ruminates...

Maria Yagushevskaya (a viewer's opinion)

Self-Portrait with Malevich and Van Gogh, Tatianin Yury, 2006, From the collection of: Erarta Museum of Contemporary Art
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The Genius of Lipetsk

All is as expected — the sky is blue, the grass — green, the watermelon — red, Van Gogh — with his ear cut off, Malevich — without any facial features, in a white shirt, same as the peasants on his canvases. Heroes and symbols of Russian and European culture of the 20th Century harmoniously blend into the style of primitivism and Russian folk. They have already replaced the stale brown bears, mermaids and three horses, though the artist's works do sometimes have those side by side. The bookseller, and now a painter, Yuri Tatianin lives in Lipetsk. His extreme selfconfidence in the correct perception of the world, art and himself in it irritates officials and local audiences, accustomed to landscape and still life. But the artist stubbornly defends his point of view, trying to develop the public taste and create a new centre of contemporary art in Lipetsk. Yuri Tatianin began his journey as an artist because his hands came across some paint. He draws a lot, obsessively, often on both sides of the canvas, giving life to thoughts and images accumulated over the years of reading and studying art albums. Tatianin with a sly "Lenin-esque" squint and sarcasm looks through his glasses at others. His way of thinking is aphoristic, he expresses the conceived thought on canvas in a very succinct way, briefly signing off "TYUN". He believes that in his works, the idea, and not the embodiment of it, is of greatest important and can even describe his painting on the phone. Still, painting comes to Tatianin easily and naturally, his works always harmonious in colour and composition. The self-portrait knows many interpretations — there's Rylov's with a squirrel, Gauguin's with his own canvas on which hangs the crucified Christ. Soviet artists liked to depict themselves in front of a wall with a hanging reproduction oftheirfavoured painterofthe Renaissance era. But "TYUN" literally inscribes himself into the history of art — somewhere between Van Gogh and Malevich. These genii of the 20th Century are literally thrown back by the courage of the green-faced artist, like parts of the space shuttle during launch when the rocket powers inexorably upwards, overcoming gravity with an insane smile, a watermelon and a knife in hand.

Maria Yagushevskaya (a viewer's opinion)

Underground, Khailu Galina, 2008, From the collection of: Erarta Museum of Contemporary Art
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Surrounded by Art (Strings)

No matter a man’s constitution, no matter how he incorporates artistic technique into it or relates to it externally, he still recognizes a small part of himself in his relationship with it. Man is always more brittle than the smallest, most paltry motherboard. Just as a car’s motion is a monument to human intelligence, the might inherent in technique reveals itself suddenly, like man himself — yet not completely; and just as Petersburg seems the best monument to Peter, giving a complete picture of the will and aspirations of this larger-than-life-figure — it really isn’t, either. Technique, always being around, envelops all of human existence and pierces it, peremptorily demanding a responsive reaction to its presence, thereby staking its claim to equal rights as a citizen of the natural world. To assert then that it is not part of that world, it should do so aggressively or else be doomed to failure. For technique to assert itself, it must adapt the means of total expansion, universal availability, and indispensability in an already developed or emerging context. The ancient Greek concept of Physis assumes that each particle has a place of its own and that nothing may take another’s designated niche; but Physis also stands for the organization and set up of things, the making of the constellations, and the very essence of the cosmos, and contemplates the relationship of their organically (not systematically) formed internal component parts. The technical involves only non-spiritual systems, only those which can use screws or solid metal coverings, but not the intent of the architect. As a consequence, man has a sense of abandonment, mediocrity, and defenselessness in the face of technology. We glance hostilely at technology — as it does at us — because it seems that there are ancient fears and animal instincts in one and the other. It has surrounded us, and to escape its tenacious grip is the equivalent of death. Indeed, a bullet can fly only if shot from the barrel of a pistol; but how intimate it must feel in there!

Aleksandr Lvov (a viewer's opinion)

From Eros to Thanatos. Yoricks, Sazhin Nikolay, 2006, From the collection of: Erarta Museum of Contemporary Art
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Shakespreare symphony

The main thing here is quickness, but not speed; numerous meanings and cultural strata This triptych is almost a graphic. The well-defined pattern and nearly transparent image create the impression of quickness and nakedness, as in the Bulgakov's works. Transparency, the guiding motif of movement, imparts desolation to the painting: when approaching the huge canvas, one shivers and feels an almost physical sensation of coldness, emptiness and the horror of utter desertion. The barely outlined sculls and, of course, the painting's title create the same Yorick is associated with Shakespeare first of all, but further associations lead us to Britain with its fog, ghosts and the colors of the North Sea. Hamlet, as he gazes upon the skull in amazement, says at the graveyard: "O, that earth, which kept the world in awe, Should patch a wall to expel the winter flaw" All of a sudden your attention is directed at the row of goblets of bone at the bottom of the painting, these messengers of abandonment. Lord Byron's famous quote comes to mind: "Where once my wit, perchance, hath shone, In aid of others let me shine; And when, alas! our brains are gone, What nobler substitute than wine?" It's remarkable that Nikolay Sazhin has managed to portray inevitability, abandonment and horror, dynamic concepts by nature, in a static form. This is a chance to look at yourself under the magnifying glass of painting.

Aleksandr Lvov (a viewer's opinion)

Sitting Dimon, Kopeikin Nicolay, 2005, From the collection of: Erarta Museum of Contemporary Art
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The iguanodon of The Gulf of Finland

What is most remarkable in a painting: What the artist wanted to say? Or what he didn't? For me, the desire to detect the "hidden idea" or to get a feel for the work grows in direct proportion to how modern artists entwine their works in the webs of various contexts. As soon as you fall for some post modernistic sleight of hand, you are forever doomed to wander through the multiple fields of major and minor semantic context, thus moving further and further away from the reality of the painting itself. The art of understanding a post modernistic painting therefore begins with the ability to avoid falling into the specific context preprogrammed by the artist. So let us dispense with a conversation about how Mikhail Vrubel's Demon Seated relates to Nikolay Kopeikin's Sitting Dimon. And then there is the temptation to cite Aleksandr Blok's words about Demon: "Being the symbol of our times / he is neither night, nor day, / neither darkness, nor light." No, I won't give in to temptation. Instead, let me give a more personal intimate association from childhood. There is a painting by the Czech artist Zdenek Burian (1905-1981) that depicts a huge dinosaur (the so-called iguanodon) lying alone on the shore of a rapidly cooling Mesozoic lake. This work was reproduced, among other paleontological reconstructions by the artist, in a set of oversize greeting cards that my parents gave to me as a present on the occasion of my graduation from the first form. I still have a lot of nostalgia for that gift. But as I plunged more deeply into the Cenozoic reality of high school, my previous infatuation with dinosaurs grew cold, like the Mesozoic lake. As for Burian, I remembered him for the rest of my life. And it is probably only after my encounter with Kopeikin's Dimon that I understood why. All works by the Czech artist convey a sense of dramatic doom on Earth. Iguanodon was the apotheosis of this subject, the last relic of the fantastic world of dinosaurs. What does Kopeikin's painting have to do with that? The answer is that Dimon — with his tanned chest, tracksuit pants and cap, smoking a cigarette and drinking beer and spitting into the sea — is also an endangered species. Why? Because of globalization, because the new generation has said "No" to alcohol and cigarettes and "Yes" to a positive, healthy American lifestyle. It is no longer fashionable to hang out. "My atmosphere is girls and street ball / In short, it's time to get down,” sings Sergey Shnurov, the soloist of the rock group "Leningrad." The band was founded in 2000 as a nostalgic project for those "thirty-somethings" who grew up in the second half of the'80s, during the final period of the "Soviet Mesozoic." The '80s are long gone. Nobody left for Dimon to raise hell with in the 'hood. He sits brooding on the concrete embankment of the Gulf of Finland. He is lonely. The sea of his youth is getting colder, but he's not trying to adapt to the changing world. Full of dignity, his gaze is fixed firmly on the past. If you go out to the embankment looking for Dimon, it's already too late.

Mikhail Ovchinnikov (a viewer's opinion)

Druids. Garden of Love, Zagoskin Aleksandr, 1998, From the collection of: Erarta Museum of Contemporary Art
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The theme of love is as enigmatic as the jungle. Zagoskin’s work is symbolic in both subject matter and its name – three creatures with snow-white skin could easily be allegorical personifications of the major components of love – Desire, Indifference and Desperation. However, the mysterious garden they inhabit, with its dark-green tree crowns, anxious blue fireflies and disturbing, bottomless black “blind spots”, does not look like the theatre stage of the Baroque, in which such allegories usually appear. Rather, it’s evidently a tempestuous and animated element, but one that is dark and difficult to describe and understand. It shows the inhabitants the expressiveness and ephemeral nature of its forms – it feels like the white skin can burst at any moment, with a black-and-green forest springing out of the cracks. Such confrontation of element and form refers to the psychoanalysis of love. Our desires (those we are aware of) are actually just a response to powerful impulses of the subconscious. Thus, in love, the obvious things border on the hidden and things on the surface – on those of unexpected depth.

Mikhail Ovchinnikov (a viewer's opinion)

Still Life, Zaretskaya Yulia, 2007, From the collection of: Erarta Museum of Contemporary Art
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Living and Dead

Still life is a world of artificially constructed reality. The name of the genre is borrowed from the French — “nature morte,” meaning "dead nature." Cut flowers, rotted fruit, slaughtered animals. Things take on lives of their own and can thereafter be likened to glasses and bottles, vases, figurines and books. The artist combines objects, develops their material essence, and then transfers the composition to the canvas — thus a still life is born. The genre is over 300 years old and its characteristics are too well known for its audience to determine what rightfully belongs to it without long reflection. An artist who calls his work a "still life" asks the spectator to address the issue of what principles may underlie any display under the heading of "nature morte." As if snatched from film fragments, the contents of the scene are revealed in bits: In the foreground, the edge of the canvas is cut from the black earth; slender plant stems arise unappealingly from a dull urban environment; and one sees the thick bars of a balcony and dirty-yellow stone walls. The cropping seems random, as in Lomographic photographs “shot from the hip," where the randomness of the framing is the key indicator of artistic merit, because the absence of a deliberate compositional construct documents life "as is." The dim ambient ocher light is muted, while the almost monochromatic gamma enhances the sad mood and the twin metal rods in the lattice of the balcony railing, which resembles the bars of a prison window. The artist, timidly approaching the balcony’s edge, peers through them to apprehend an utterly bleak world. According to the traditions of still life, all the living things that appear in the composition — whether fly, butterfly, dog or man — must serve to emphasize and contrast with the dead and artificial. The vital force of nature and life itself, embodied in the frail sprouts, and standing in stark contrast to the urban landscape, defy the easy definitions that still attach to a genuine still life.

Catherine Lopatkina (a viewer's opinion)

Shower Temptation of Eve, Dashevsky Aleksandr, 2003, From the collection of: Erarta Museum of Contemporary Art
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Bathing, bathroom, morning toilet... These are the simple subjects for the nude in an era that was morally stricter than ours. Often, the artist depicts the girl smiling at the spectator, as if inviting him to admire her naked body. For Eve at the beginning of the 21st century, the spectator does not exist; she is immersed in her own thoughts, with her private space intact: her angular figure has its back turned to the spectator, head hung on her shoulders, arms crossed on her chest, legs intertwined. She is clearly uncomfortable, even when alone with herself; she clings to one side of the bath, as if seeking protection or support. Next to her is a long, snake-like shower hose. Maybe a phallic symbol; or, more likely, a direct reference to an alternative way to meet women. The scene is frankly erotic and dramatic at the same time. The drawing’s somber colors and heavy lines roughen the bathroom surroundings and add to the depressive impression. Restless notes add a bluish hue, while the thin chaotic strokes that cover the girl’s figure and the bathroom surface appear like old scars. As Scarron wrote in his Tragicomic Short Stories, "Eve preferred to listen to the seductive devil rather than to remain a woman devoid of physical intimacy." Hewn from the darkness of the bath, the immortal scene plays out in three parts and concludes with a famous finale: The Temptation, the Fall, and Expulsion from Paradise. The Old Testament serpent, working from the tree of knowledge, conscious of good and evil, seduced Eve, allowing her to satisfy her curiosity, which she then passed on to Adam. "And their eyes were opened, and they discovered then that they were both naked..." The whole order of life in Eden was turned upside down; until then, there had been neither birth nor death in the Garden of Eden, nor any concept of carnal delight. That was the moment when people became aware of another side to carnal awareness, namely shame and fear — and for all eternity. Evidently, the heroine seems to have something to think about. A gray mass of dirty paint surrounds her while she stays in the white of the magic circle — but who knows for how long? Does the circle delineate her desires and doubts? And, should the circle disappear, which of those would prevail?

Catherine Lopatkina (a viewer's opinion)

Venus of Sverdlovsk, Volosenkov Felix, 1967, From the collection of: Erarta Museum of Contemporary Art
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Veneral beauty

At first glance, this painting is strange – although it refers to a certain tradition – yet profound and possessing a startling sincerity. This Venus tells you everything that you would like to know about love but were too shy to ask the German expressionists. The first thing that catches the eye is her stomach that resembles a vegetable root, followed by the turquoise colored mold on her ulcerated flesh above her ripped and torn stockings, and then by her engorged nipples and blistered knees. Why is this image of sensual love so repulsive? Is it due to the artist’s fidelity to the tradition of depicting women as prostitutes in expressionist painting, or is it merely the shameless reflection of his ideas on the palette? Actually, it is about something completely different. Both the name of the painting and the ultramarine strokes on the canvas are mysterious, as if imitating the stab wounds on the body of the Danae displayed in the Hermitage. Above all, one must consider the mysteriously beatific smile on the Venus Of Sverdlovsk’s face. The canvas that is so sincere in its nudity speaks to us in a strange language to which we can but listen.

Pavel Markaitis (a viewer's opinion)

Chapaev, Fateev Vladimir, 2005, From the collection of: Erarta Museum of Contemporary Art
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Up-circle-down-x-right-right-circle – when standing in front of this painting, one can’t help but search for a game console joystick to help Chapaev dodge the dashed line of machine gun fire. Aesthetics of first uncomplicated-yet-masterful games in pixel art style become organically inscribed into a plot which has gone through several stages of myth. Chapaev has been swimming in the cultural stream for over a century, floating from the heroic pathos of Soviet times to the shores of contemporary anecdotes and then being picked up in a whirlpool of postmodern literature. Fateev’s canvas, seemingly completely immobile at first glance, definitely contains hidden movement, expressed not in texture but in simple and “honest” lines, uncomplicated and concise composition. It is just like that – firm, straightforward, organically alien to any pattern, that Chapaev is perceived as today. The myth has found its final shape and now doesn’t accept innovations, rather, creating just infinite self-reproduction. Like any anecdote, a painting brings a smile to the face of a viewer but within it also lays sudden isolation and hopelessness – the hero isn’t destined to cross this river, which strictly speaking no longer flows. Whether he will be caught by the persistent dashed line of machine gun fire or swallowed by the blackness of the deceptive land doesn’t matter, because after a quick “Game Over”, everything will start again

Anastasia Kolesnikova (a viewer's opinion)

Meal of Wicked, Shinkarev Vladimir, 1990/1996, From the collection of: Erarta Museum of Contemporary Art
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The ungodliness of postmodern art

It is a strange allusion to the Holy Trinity by Andrey Rublev. The composition is similar, and there are even haloes around the faceless heads. The postmodern quotation is probably a provocation of the ungodliness of the painting's subject in either case, the red and black colors and the schematic images of the three tablemates look scary. The white patches against the grim background resemble a bottle and something similar to a newspaper. Sharp, zigzag lines form figures with squares and coarse triangles for heads, reminding us of footballs. Meal of Impious— upon hearing this, culturologists would discuss not just the color or symbols in the composition, but also the meaning of the impious in the title: ungodly, unrighteous, blasphemous, sinning against God's commands. So what is so blasphemous about this party of three? It may be happening in a time of the proverbial Plague, as suggested by the blood-red hues, the dark figures and, especially, emptiness where their faces should have been. Those who commit unrighteous deeds usually hide their faces both from themselves and others. The faceless fallen angels (keeping The Holy Trinity in mind) caught in the middle of their shameful deeds. There is a dense feeling of hopelessness, sorrow and despair about it.., Culturologists might say: "When there is no God, everything is allowed"

Aleksandra Novitskaya (a viewer's opinion)

The First Course, Babenko Pavel, 2004, From the collection of: Erarta Museum of Contemporary Art
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When looking at Babenko’s paintings one can’t help thinking that Pavel is a person of natural gift. As any gifted person he inclines towards certain ponderousness and equally heavy humour. When the artist wants amusement he adds some more bottles to the picture and if he wants to reflect on “eternal” topics he adds nails and a crown of thorns to his painting. Babenko’s canvases are reminiscent of Southern Russian cuisine- fried, fatty, high in calories and lavish. The artist celebrates it in certain still-lives including “The first course”. Flavourful strokes of warm-coloured paint, texture and the subject-matter itself refer to food and drinks. Altogether it brings to mind a default image of an expressionist-simpleton with a standard suite of methods, emotions and subject-matters. However, this image is not complete. Sometimes it happens that a painting leads its creator. The artist may be wants to add some brightness and fun to the painting but the intention gets mired in the painting which pulls in the opposite direction. The notion of the first course brings back memories of the past: of factory canteens, public catering, manufacturing cooking-rooms and of the time when the highest point of every working day was a glorious first course-second course-compote trio. Objects of Babenko’s still-lives are lost in time. Such time-distance between the artist and the depicted objects adds a nostalgic aspect to the painting and eventually tames the painting’s vivacity and tones down the brightness of southern colours. Ironic nostalgia for everything from the time of Soviet Union has become a cliché and main characteristic of topical Russian art which aims at reflecting actuality. However, Babenko does not paint topical art and that is why the feeling of nostalgia in his paintings is real. He paints because he misses the times gone. It is a very small piece of private life which has nothing to do with politics of ideology. Canteen cooking pots, dishes and spoons are passing by the viewer in a colourful fog as if in a film about the hero’s childhood memories. And exactly because of this fog the still-life becomes strangely solemn and involuntarily assumes a grave quality.

Aleksandr Dashevskiy (a viewer's opinion)

From “The Walls” Series, Yanovsky Dmitry, 2006, From the collection of: Erarta Museum of Contemporary Art
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Lenin with us

Dmitry Yanovsky’s painting technique is complex and multilayered. Under one layer of colors, is another layer revealing a new aspect, as if each time a new story was painted over the previous layer. But the preceding one does not vanish completely in the process; it remains deeply embedded in the material, conserving the meanings like genetic memory. It emerges from the color splashes and seemingly chaotic brushstrokes from the depth of the canvas, fatal as death and undeniable as birth... birth in a country where no one can escape from Lenin because every city in the former Soviet Union has an avenue or at least a street named after him. However, the toponymic fixation is just part of the myth. It's the Dom Kultury on your street the mosaics in the Metro, and your "Sitting with Lenin" couch: the artist didn't forget any part of life. But Lenin's life had long since ceased to be a human life, having lost the key appurtenance of natural being: it's linearity and the comfort that comes with it. This is an anecdote and reality at the same time. His political career and certainly his personal biography had long since crystallized to the point of "death through canonization" and then simply evaporated, unable to withstand the tension of ceaseless debates and revisions. This substance is still in the air acting either as a suffocating agent or as laughing gas. The artist's method of painting conveys this alchemic process of transformation into legend. It opens the ability of a personality to exist in an unrecorded state: beyond life and death. The face in the picture is either emerging out of brushstrokes and lines or is an aggregate of them, arising out of scattered and shapeless corpuscles. The clever Kalmyk squint, sparkle in the eyes — he has not disappeared, he is still with us, just evenly diffused in the air. His image can appear on a wall I as if by chance (not manmade..?), emerging from color splashes or created from elements. It is this compulsive chemical immortality that is emphasized by the seemingly loose and ragged painting manner.

Alisa Zagriadskaya (a viewer's opinion)

Pain, Comelfo Vladimir, 1997, From the collection of: Erarta Museum of Contemporary Art
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The transformation of the way human beings regard artistic technique in the 20th century owes much to existentialism. The heroes of existentialist novels and plays, the actors in “Theater of the Absurd," the experimental characters from “The New Novel” on paper and in films — all of them are constantly watching. The instant of perception becomes a process of looking at something, where the duration and direction of one’s gaze make them significant. The gaze is always outer-directed, beyond the inner self, toward an incomprehensible subject. Jean-Paul Sartre wrote that the gaze of others reveals us and, in so doing, limits our freedom. The metaphorical description of hell in his play "Huis clos" is reduced to a locked hotel room, in which three characters are doomed to the endless torment of suffering each other's views. Through the gaze of the other, one also becomes aware of the different perceptions that arise from a corporeal awareness of the world of things. The reality of things that are "not me" inevitably leads to a reflection on the nature of reality — and on one’s own limbs. The images created by Vladimir Komelfo can be called impersonal. They have no nose, lips, cheeks, chin, or forehead. The outline of a human head with a well-defined ear dissolves in a scarlet glow. There are only the eyes that have been deprived of their pupils and the ability to express emotions, as they must pass through two spots, both free of color or any interference. We don’t see those eyes, as we are hard-pressed against them. They look at us, and force us to reveal ourselves. Penetrating through the empty sockets in the interstices of the white cloth, they become a part of the process of looking, and an integral component of the distance of our gaze — and make us realize: Now it is ours, this shared pain.

Victor Treschev (a viewer's opinion)

Women with Green Wings, Pisareva Galina, 2006, From the collection of: Erarta Museum of Contemporary Art
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The Guardian Angels

Paintings, like people, have their own personalities. For example, paintings can be negative or affirmative, pessimistic or optimistic, merciful or cruel — or a combination of all these qualities and more. Sometimes, a painting will tell us something about life; other times, it will take us far away. Yet whatever painters, poets, or writers create, their works always reflect the state of their For Gelya Pisareva, the world is turbulent but harmonious. Pier outlook is neither Eastern nor meditative but reveals rather an eternal Slavic pantheism, a belief in nature's spirits and the idea that everything happens for a reason. As in centuries past, the peasant women, confident and serene, still dry, thresh, rake, and stack their hay. Grass twines round their feet and gets tangled in the hems of their skirts as the universe spins behind them in an unimaginable yellow and lilac chaos. Of course, the kind female goddesses will protect, help, and shelter them, because such is their nature. The nameless guardians of the world order have no alternative; their life is predestined. From birth to death they must bear their burden, in the form of the heavy wings that match the color and substance of the freshly mown fields, the wings that will never carry them away from their reality.

Elina Nikolaeva (a viewer's opinion)

Metro. Escalator, Zinshtein Aron, 1985, From the collection of: Erarta Museum of Contemporary Art
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A lot of people don't like the metro. Aron Zinshtein managed to create a cross-section of the chthonic reality which it represents. His work, which is characterized by the spontaneity of the avant-garde naive, the explosiveness and gutta-percha of nature, unexpectedly takes on a Hoffmann-Gigeresque resonance. And this is no coincidence, because the unclouded optics of the "children's view" faultlessly unmasks the roar of the earth. The carnivorous throat of the "world city" (Oswald Spengler), which swallows and spits out flows of passengers immediately scalds the viewer with flames from Dante's hell; on the other hand, the painting is executed in clearly "meaty” tones, and has all the force of the expression of the human body turned inside out. "Flesh turns to land, gives off a glow. Juice starts to flow. The earth calls out" (Gottfried Benn). We know where the people go who descend into this "underground world" but the infernal nature of this necropolitan paradoxically breaths with the power of a womb giving birth, although without any Bakhtinian recreational connotations. This machine only produces stillborn material Metro may well be considered an addition to the images of Petersburg created by the artist, one of its mythological underground faces. Here the Petersburg of Dostoevsky has changed its topos, going under the ground, going into the underground. Hades won't let Persephone go, Virgil won't come to Alighieri's assistance, and the whale won't vomit Jonah from its belly! "Careful! Mind the closing doors" A lot of people don't like the metro.

Alexey Filatov (a viewer's opinion)

Credits: Story

Best art-literature essays written by philosophers, by historians, by employees of Erarta and by our visitors are regularly exhibited in the museum and published in Erarta’s catalogues.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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