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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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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Saturday, Oct. 25


AVA Expo, the eighth edition of the event revolving around all things pop, returns to Lenexpo this weekend. Geeks, nerds, dweebs and dorks will have their chance to talk science fiction and explore a variety of international pop culture. Tickets for the event can be purchased on their website at avaexpo.ru.



Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the club’s website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit “Neophobia” at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBA’s Marketing and Communications Committee’s round table discussion on “Government Relations Practices in Russia” this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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