Artmuza – a creative complex open to everyone
ArtMuza is a creative complex and museum of modern art located in a former musical instrument factory on Vasilievskii Island. A cross between a gallery, artists’ studio, and creative cluster in the style of Etazhi, Artmuza does not just exhibit art but involves the local community in St Petersburg’s cultural scene. Entry to Artmuza is free and there is something for everyone.
What can you find there?
For those looking for a cultural fix, Artmuza boasts 10 galleries with a monthly rotation of exhibitions showcasing a huge variety of artistic trends. There are spaces for events such as fashion shows and concerts, and billboards dotted around the site advertise upcoming events. Artmuza even has its own theatre. There is a terrace spanning the entire roof sporting its own concert stage, bars and cafes, and a panoramic view of Vasilievskii Island.
Artmuza is embellished with an eclectic mix of interior design. The galleries and art-filled corridors blend into one huge space, as if the walls have been knocked down between a myriad of exhibitions. Even the floors and walls of Artmuza pay tribute to Russian art, for example this corridor on the third floor which is decorated with suprematist shapes and Malevich stained glass.
Artmuza does not solely provide exhibition space but opens its doors to support the local community. There are over 100 rooms which are rented out to artists and small businesses at an average monthly rate of 16,000 roubles (about £200). Just some of the businesses within Artmuza’s expansive site are printing, design and photo studios, tattoo studios, clothing boutiques and salons. Also, many artists have studios in the creative complex. As you explore the site you feel like you’re behind the scenes at a gallery – paintings and frames propped against the corridors, studio doors open beside them, artists moving back and forth to set up their work.
For those who are looking for some retail therapy or just to browse the independent creative businesses which epitomise St Petersburg, this is the place to be. And for those who want to get involved themselves, many of the small business within Artmuza aim to include the public in cultural life. There are life-drawing and sculpture classes, art schools, workshops run by resident creatives, and even dance schools.
One artist who works at Artmuza Is Roman Liapin, a world-renowned artist whose strikingly beautiful paintings of St Petersburg, Karelia, and Lake Ladoga adorn the corridors of Artmuza.
I particularly liked his paintings of St Petersburg. Liapin describes cities as a ‘living workshop’ on which life plays out, a backdrop which preserves the history of the previous generations even when the people themselves are gone. Liapin perfectly captures the essence of St Petersburg, with his layering of paint conveying the light, rhythm, and even the weather of the city – you really get the sense of heavy rainclouds or hazy evenings in his paintings.
I thought it was interesting that Liapin also includes the TV Tower, high-speed motorway, Lakhta Centre and the football stadium, in his pieces. He makes his work stand out from traditional landscape paintings of St Petersburg, showing the city as a dynamic and evolving place and not just a snapshot from the past.
Liapin has a separate exhibition «ДО» (Before), in the gallery «Лекционный угол» (Lecture Corner), 2nd floor, on until 30th September. But the paintings I have written about can be seen in the 2nd floor corridor outside Liapin’s workshop. They are from previous collections such as «Роман с небом» (Romance with the sky) «2856», and «Новый Питер» (New Petersburg).
Another exhibition which is currently on in Artmuza is «Баллады иных миров» (Ballads from Other Worlds), by artist Igor Ivanov. He characterises his style as ‘Recycle-Art’, as all his pieces comprise old scrap metal and electrical parts constructed into a ‘new circle of movement’. Despite the jagged materials which make up his work, Ivanov’s pieces are ‘strikingly harmonious’ in composition.
He depicts steampunk and science-fiction ‘fairytale worlds’, portraying the development of science and technology in civilisation. I’m normally a fan of more realistic art, but I was taken aback by the originality and intricacy of Ivanov’s work.
Ivanov takes influence from ancient artwork and mythology. For example, some of Ivanov’s works contain Hindu mythology, such as the World Turtle and Vishnu in his artwork «Мир» (World). His pieces «Зов предков» 1 and 2 (Call of the Ancestors) are reminiscent of Aztec style depictions. In the introduction to the exhibition, Ivanov expresses that mythology of the lost city of Atlantis has influenced his work, as he portrays the development, cityscape, and technology of an otherworldly civilisation.
«Баллады иных миров» is on until 1st October in the gallery «Бизнес-арт» (Business-art), 3rd floor.
The last exhibition I visited was Ksenia Voskoboinikova’s «Путь художника» (Artist’s journey). She aims to ‘break as many rules as possible’ and ‘depart from enforced limits and templates’ of art. A key theme running throughout the exhibition is Voskoboinikova’s desire to capture the essence of a specific moment.
Her drawings «Кошка» 1 and 2 (Cat) depict a sleeping cat and a cat rolling over. Alongside the drawings, she writes about a ‘fear’ of drawing moving objects, and explains how artists would normally endeavour to study the static form, the anatomy, and practice many times to create a perfect drawing. Yet Voskoboinikova declares that instead of this constant analysis and perfectionism, she just portrays what she sees at that moment.
Voskoboinokova explores how she feels as an artist, and questions art itself as a thing to be produced and objectified – who gets to decide what the art means, artist or viewer? «Точка» (Dot) expresses the ‘fear of starting a new work’. On the artwork is written «Не чистый лист/ Боязнь белого листа» (“Not a plain page/ fear of a white page”). «Не композиция» (Not a composition) deals with the consumption and labelling of art from an outside point of view, as well as societal expectations. Voskoboinikova says that she doesn’t want to be judged like an artwork is, declaring «нет, я НЕ композиция!» (No, I’m NOT a composition!)
Voskoboinikova’s work also frequently portrays St Petersburg – the landscape, its inhabitants, and their interaction with the city. She depicts the changing cityscape, snapshots of specific moments, and how she felt at different points and at different places within the city.
«Путь художника» is on until 7th October in the gallery «Ул. Большая Ремесленная» (Big Craft Street), 4th floor.
Even spending just a couple of hours in Artmuza, you see a huge variety of art flowing seamlessly throughout the site. The exhibitions I saw are only a fraction of what is available there. The open plan, the hundreds of metres of art-filled corridors not boxed into separate zones, gives a sense of culture open to everyone who visits. You sense how Artmuza facilitates the integration of local artists into the wider cultural community, allowing them to work side by side with world-renowned artists. But the creation of art is given as much importance as the exhibition of art, and visitors are encouraged to join in. Artmuza is a transitionary space – not a gallery, not a studio, but a centre of inclusive creativity defined not by the curators, but also by those who visit. I would highly recommend you take a trip there! До встречи, Rachel.
Where to find it:
House 70, 13th Line
11am – 10pm every day.
Cost of entry: