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French Artist Sets Moscow Landmark on Fire

Published: May 26, 2014 (Issue # 1812)



  • A view of the interior of the Melnikov House, a constructivist landmark known for its iconic hexagonal windows.
    Photo: Vladimir Filonov / SPT

  • A model of the Melnikov House was set ablaze by artist Xavier Veilhan.
    Photo: Kevin O’Flynn / For SPT

The Melnikov House burned bright on the warm May evening. Through its iconic hexagonal windows, the flames could be seen growing stronger and stronger. Smoke rose into the sky and as the temperature inside the house soared, the walls began to visibly warp.

Yekaterina Karinskaya, the granddaughter of architect Konstantin Melnikov, who built the avant-garde house in the 1920s, stood close by chewing calmly on some pork that had been cooked with the heat of the burning building.

This was not the actual house consisting of two intersecting cylindrical towers that Melnikov built as a combined home and studio, but a 1.5-meter-high metal model of it created by French artist Xavier Veilhan for a one-off performance.

A small group of people were invited to the garden of the real Melnikov House, located on a small side street off Arbat in central Moscow, to watch the miniature house burn in an event that even Veilhan described as strange.

The immolation was part of his "Architectones" series, which has seen him install specially created art in iconic modern buildings and help them raise money for their restoration or renovation.

The artist has gained access to grand, classic houses in Los Angeles — including the Sheats-Goldstein House, which featured in the movies "The Big Lebowski" and "Charlie's Angels" — as well as to Le Corbusier's modernist Cite Radieuse in Marseille and even to a church, the Sainte-Bernadette du Banlay in Nevers, France.

Burning the Melnikov House in its garden was the most difficult project to bring about, however.

"It was easier to make something in a church than in here," he said.

Karinskaya stood at the gate of her unusual home to greet guests as they arrived for the evening event. Asked what was going to happen, she shrugged with a look of incomprehension on her face.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Monday, Oct. 20


Amateur pictures from World War I are on display for only one more day at Rosphoto’s exhibition “On Both Sides,” chronicling the conflict through the eyes of observers on both sides of the trenches. The price of entrance to the exhibition is 100 rubles ($2.50).



Tuesday, Oct. 21


The Environment, Health and Safety Committee of AmCham convenes this morning at 9 a.m. in the organization’s office.


Take the chance to pick the brains of Dmitry V. Krivenok, the deputy director of the Economic Development Agency of the Leningrad region, and Mikhail D. Sergeev, the head of the Investment Projects Department, during the meeting with them this morning hosted by SPIBA. RSVP for the event by emailing office@spiba.ru before Oct. 17 if you wish to attend.


Improve your English at Interactive English, the British Book Center’s series of lessons on vocabulary and grammar in an informal atmosphere. Starting at 6 p.m., each month draws attention to different topics in English, with the topic for this month’s lessons being “visual arts.”



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