Thursday, 13 July 2017

A journey through Russian art

This morning, we walked over to the Paseo del Parque to catch a number 16 bus that would take us to visit a remarkable Malaga cultural institution, housed in one third of an imposing stylish 1920s building which was once a tobacco factory. Now it houses a major automobile collection in one wing, a tech' startup incubator in another, and an amazing art gallery in the central section. It houses a permanent collection of Russian art, with fresh exhibits from St Petersburg art gallery collection of 400,000 works from the past millennium.

After we got on the bus, a young lady carrying a microphone and a man with a video camera got on the bus. I noticed they were wearing bus company authorisation badges. Once we were under way, the camera was set to work, and the young woman started to address passengers enthusiastically and loudly, inviting them to be interviewed on camera and say what they love about the city. They got an equally enthusiastic response from travellers. I believe they were on an assignment from a local cable TV channel. It certainly made the bus ride a bit more interesting than we'd expected.

The exhibition we were going to visit focuses on the art of the three centuries of the Romanov dynasty, which ended with the 1917 Russian revolution. It was a huge illustrated guide to three centuries of Russian political and cultural history. Substantial if rather heavyweight on times, but an occasion to see a remarkable variety of art works without having to travel to St Petersburg.

Alongside this was an exhibition of the earlier works of Vassily Kandinsky, a Russian artist and musician, friend of Arnold Schoenberg. Kandinsky was born and bred in Russia, and lived there until after the revolution. The exhibition demonstrated how profoundly influenced he was by the colours and forms of Russian folk art and iconography. It was an excellent essay in art history.

The vast gallery space, in the upper floor of the old factory, with bookshop and restaurant are minimally furnished, making good use of glass walls, simply images and lighting. Best of all, with our pensioners' discount, we paid just eight euros for a double ticket, plus a menu del dia for under ten euros each. A great four hour excursion, with a travel time of twenty minutes each way.

Later in the evening, after sunset, we went out for a walk around the port, and found our way to the open air contemporary art gallery and bar next to the Malaga Pompidou Centre, called 'Artsenal' - a play on the word Arsenal, written with a 'no nukes' background logo, making the point that this area is a safe place for cultural 'weapons' to be displayed and safely stored. A jazz trio with a singer in the Billie Holliday style were just finishing their gig. Many of the audience were on their feet, jiving or dancing quickstep in front of the open air stage. All part of a laid back open air night time lifestyle which comes naturally to people in this part of the world.

As we returned to the apartment, walking past the bullring, the sound of a musical performance issued from within. Italian singer song-writer Franco Battiato was on stage, thankfully not as loud as last Saturday night's Queen event. Thankfully, when there events finish, there's not much noise or rowdiness in the streets afterwards. This city, this barrio, is such a delight to be part of, even if the humidity and heat are almost unbearable on times and drive sleep away.

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