Controversial sculptor Zurab Tsereteli opens museum in Georgian capital
Georgian-born artist plans to show his work and host exhibitions of Russian and Georgian contemporary art in Tbilisi
By Sophia Kishkovsky. Web only
Published online: 26 March 2012
The Georgian-born painter and sculptor Zurab Tsereteli opened the Zurab Tsereteli Museum of Modern Art in his hometown of Tbilisi on 29 February. Just a few days earlier he had been dismissed as an adviser to the Moscow city government. The sculptor has been much criticised for his statue of Vladimir Putin in judo kit and for a giant figure of Peter the Great on the Moscow River, as well as for his four-tonne, teardrop-shaped memorial to the victims of the 11 September attacks in New Jersey.
Tbilisi, the capital of the former Soviet republic of Georgia, is rebranding itself as a modern tourist and cultural destination and restoring ties with Russia following a brief, bloody war in 2008. Tsereteli, the president of the Russian Academy of Arts, flew in from Moscow with an entourage of 120, including businessmen and musicians. “This is the first museum [in Georgia] that will focus on contemporary art, on modern art,” says Vasili Tsereteli, his grandson.
The artist, who has a house and studio in Tbilisi, bought a dilapidated pre-revolutionary cadet corps building near the opera house on Rustaveli Avenue for the museum and commissioned architect Givi Metreveli to restore the historic façade and transform the interior.
Tsereteli, who knew Picasso, Chagall and Dalí, opened the Moscow Museum of Modern Art with the city of Moscow in 1999 and has since expanded it to three other central Moscow locations. Vasili Tsereteli, a graduate of New York’s Parsons School of Design, is the executive director.
Zurab Tsereteli has an eponymous gallery filled with his works next door to the Academy of Art, but is also praised for reviving the academy and helping both young and elderly artists. The Tbilisi museum’s upper levels are devoted to his paintings and sculptures.
The lower floor will function as a kunsthalle, says Vasili, with rotating modern art exhibitions, including shows organized by the Moscow museum and exchanges of Russian and Georgian artists. An inaugural photo biennial is scheduled for this summer.
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