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Calvert 22 Brings Gay Art from Russia to Britain

Published: May 15, 2014 (Issue # 1810)



  • Ivan Sotnikovs painting Blue Firs shows Lenins tomb upside down.
    Photo: Ivan Sotnikov / Calvert 22

  • Timur Novikov, wearing a moustache, poses with artist Georgy Guryanov, left.
    Photo: Paquita Escofet Miro / Calvert 22

While Russian politicians express outrage over Austrian transvestite Conchita Wurst's recent Eurovision victory, a new exhibit at the Calvert 22 gallery in London, organized as part of the 2014 U.K.Russia Year of Culture, is showing works from Timur Novikov's New Academy, a St. Petersburg arts school known for pioneering nonconformist and gay art in post-Soviet Russia.

The exhibit "Club of Friends" manages to incorporate music, film, photos and paintings showcasing a mix of talents from Timur Novikov and his team, the New Artists and the New Academy. Presenting work from the 1980s to 1990s, the show chronicles the artistic movements that sprang up in a time of change and political turmoil in St. Petersburg.

"The unofficial art scene of Leningrad practiced the so-called 'aesthetic otherness.'" said curator Yekaterina Andreyeva. "The artists did not fight Soviet rule or critique or deconstruct it as much as they avoided talking in a Soviet language out of principle the New Artists lived in a trans-avant-garde world, without division," commented Yekaterina Andreyeva.

Timur Novikov was the driving force behind two unique artistic movements in this period: the New Artists and the New Academy. Founded in a communal apartment in the early '80s, the New Artists included an eclectic assortment of artists ranging from painter Oleg Maslov to video artist Sergei "Africa" Bugayev, who exhibited works together and formed a close social circle.

In 1989, Novikov expanded the informal New Artists circle to create the New Academy, a group vaguely modeled on the ideal of an ancient Greek academy. This group expanded the exhibition activities of the New Artists, and also organized protest/performance pieces. Most famously, Novikov and Bugayev together publicly declared their homosexuality in a 1989 interview, four years before the repeal of a Soviet law outlawing sodomy Bugayev has since recanted this declaration.

The curatorial staff at Calvert 22 has close connections with Novikov's groups: David Thorp, curatorial advisor at Calvert 22, has been interested in Novikov's work since viewing Novikov's creations in the late 1980s, and even owns a few of the textile pieces by Novikov, while curator Yekaterina Andreyeva was personally acquainted with many of the artists that Novikov inspired.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, Aug. 28


Learn more about the citys upcoming municipal elections during the presentation of the project Road Map for the Municipal Elections being presented this evening in the conference hall on the third floor of Biblioteka at 21 Nevsky Prospekt. Steve Kaddins, a coordinator for Beautiful St. Petersburg, which gives residents an online forum to lodge complaints about infrastructure problems in the city, will be on hand to answer any questions. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. and is open to all.



Friday, Aug. 29


Park Pobedy will feature the sights and sounds of the world outside of Russia during the Open Art International Festival today. Taste foreign cuisine, learn how to make tea like the Chinese or relax in a hammock during the free event. Although entrance is free, you must register beforehand if you wish to attend.



Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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