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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 OFlynn / 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

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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