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Calvert 22 Brings Gay Art from Russia to Britain

Published: May 15, 2014 (Issue # 1810)



  • Ivan Sotnikov’s painting “Blue Firs” shows Lenin’s 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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Thursday, Nov. 27


The Customs and Transportation Committee for AmCham meets this morning at 9 a.m. in their office on Ulitsa Yakubovicha.


Tickets are still available for local KHL team SKA St. Petersburg’s showdown with Siberian club Metallurg Novokuznetsk tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the Ice Palace outside the Prospekt Bolshevikov metro station. Tickets can be purchased on the team’s website, at the arena box office or in their merchandise store on Nevsky Prospekt.


Celebrate one of Russian literature’s most tragic figures during Blok Days, a two-day celebration of the 134th anniversary of the poet’s birthday. The tragic tenor’s work, which led to writer Maxim Gorky to hail him as Russia’s greatest living poet before his death in 1921, will be recited and meetings and discussions about his contributions to the Silver Age of literature in St. Petersburg will be discussed in the confines of his former residence.



Friday, Nov. 28


Join table game aficionados at the British Book Center’s Board Game Evening. Held every Friday at 5 p.m., aficionados and amateurs alike can come take part in a variety of different games that test one’s intellect and cunning.



Saturday, Nov. 29


Cats, dogs, birds, rodents and reptiles are just some of the things that will walk and crawl at Lenexpo convention center this weekend as part of Zooshow, a two-day exhibition featuring not only man’s best friends but a four-legged fashion show, as well as a food fair that will help pet owners find out more about which kibbles are best for their hungry pets.



Sunday, Nov. 30


Remember the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Russo-Finnish war in 1939 during today’s reenactment titled “Winter War: How it Was.” More than 200 people will take part in recreating the opening salvoes of the battle for the north in Kamenka, a small village situated between Vyborg and St. Petersburg, using authentic equipment and vintage vehicles from the era. The faux battle begins at 2 p.m.



Monday, Dec. 1


Serbia filmmaker Emir Kusturica is the featured guest this evening at the Lensovet Palace of Culture the Petrograd Side. Fans of the director will get the chance to watch his movie “Black Cat, White Cat,” as well as ask questions about his award-winning filmography. Tickets for the event, which starts at 7 p.m., start at 2,000 rubles ($42.50).



Tuesday, Dec. 2


Today is the final day of “Takoy Festival,” a three-week program of plays based on the works of Dostoevsky, Remarque and other famed European writers, whose work is transcribed for theatrical performances. Tonight’s festival finale is “Fathers and Sons,” a two-act drama staged by the Novosibirsk Academic Drama Theater based on Turgenev’s classic about familial relations.



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