We go back to the Tretyakov, stopping at nearby Gorky Park first. Wasn’t there a bad cold war movie from the 80s entitled Gorky Park? It’s lovely now: they’ve got one of the Burans, the Soviet space shuttle that does look almost exactly like the American one, by the river – now it provides shade for bicycle rentals.
There are bilingual signs, big fountains, outdoor ping pong tables, a fair ground, and public toilets with toilet paper, soap in the dispensers, Scandinavian hand dryers and inspection sheets. I learn later that as late as last year, Gorky Park used to be populated by drug users, but now it’s a tourist site for Moscovites. Looking for the Graveyard of Old Monuments, we cross the road to the giant Tretyakov building and discover it’s on the side (fenced off from the Park of Arts though) – we see Lenins, a Sverdlov, a giant Dzerzhinsky, even a Stalin with his nose broken off and a wall of stone heads encased in barbed wire behind him.
I believe this is a Soviet worker pointing the way forward for all the workers of the world, including myself:
The nearby photos from 1991 of people toppling these statues make sad – not because they overthrew the regime (obviously a good thing) but because these revolutionary thinkers and strategists became associated with such an odious system.
= World Communism!
Some statues waiting to get into the gallery:
I wish all cars looked like this, or maybe like old Citroens. And that all men had to wear suits and smoke Gaulois and play the moog and eat tinned caviar… OK, I’m mixing my cultural reference points, but you get the idea:
A gallery porch, about halfway up the Tretyakov. Not only is it immense, it’s designed to look immense-r:
After an expensive but nice traditional lunch at the gallery cafe (including a Russian salad of grated cabbage, fish mayonnaise, grated carrot and potato that’s growing on me) we see all the Russian 20th century art. Well, I spend my concentration energy on the early revolutionary period and its celebration of abstract forms, as well as its classical portrayals of workers.
Red Wedge, Nicholas Colley, 1918. Looks like a piece of Edam, doesn’t it:
Only Toil And That Until Blood-Callous Hands Will Yield Us A Final Victory, Sergey Chokhonin, 1920. Hard to sleep in with that sort of motivation:
The Reds Against The Whites, N. Ya. Danko, 1922. The counter-revolutionary white armies tried to crush the Russian Revolution. Its pawns are in chains:
The red pawns are healthy peasant women:
A mock-up of Rodchenko’s workers’ club, a non-pub, non-religious, non-family space where workers could go to read, discuss politics and socialize – though presumably not to sit down for too long:
Anti-imperialist meeting in New York, Yu. N. Piminov, 1931.
The Agitator, David Shterenburg, 1927. This is me when I tutor:
OK, that’s enough art for one post, and we’re still in the first few rooms. I’ll start another.