When most people picture Russia, they think of Moscow. The swirling, multicolored peaks of Saint Basil’s Cathedral. The powerful face of the country’s leader, Putin. Vodka.
Moscow is indeed the nation’s political capital, and the largest city entirely on the European continent. But it’s actually St. Petersburg, located over 400 miles away from Moscow, that is the country’s cultural capital and the true and sacred heart of Russian literature, music and art. It should come as no surprise, then, that the Erarta Museum of Contemporary Art (http://www.erarta.com/en/) – located on Vasilyevsky Island, a borough of St. Peterseburg – have become such a delight to international and domestic visitors alike. The museum is a part of a global Erarta project that aims to promote Russian contemporary art both in that country and outside its borders, and has renewed the world’s appreciation for world-class, modern Russian art.
Erarta (E): The Erarta building is an example of late Stalinist classicism, originally built in 1951 for the local headquarters of the communist party and later occupied by the Synthetic Rubber Research Institute of the USSR. It took a complete three-year renovation of the interior to transform the space into one suitable for a contemporary art museum and Erarta finally opened its doors to visitors in 2010.
Erarta is the biggest museum of contemporary art in Russia, a must-see attraction for gaining insight into modern Russian society. Its five-floor, 10,000 sq. m. building in St. Petersburg is separated into three wings, one dedicated to showcasing its permanent collection comprised of over 2,800 works by more than 300 artists from various regions of Russia. The two other wings are dedicated temporary exhibition spaces that host over 50 different shows of painting, sculpture, photography, video-art, fashion, design and architecture every year. There is also the 800-person capacity Erarta Stage performance hall, which regularly hosts various events such as plays, concerts, cinema screenings as well as lectures and meetings with renowned figures from the worlds of art, fashion and design.
E: The name Erarta is derived from two words, “Era” and ‘:A.rta”, whose combination can be translated from Russian as “the era of art”. In fact, the very first thing that all guests see when visiting Erarta are the two sculptures of Era and Arta in front of the building, which were especially created for the project by local artist Dmitry Zhukov.
E: Erarta Museum aims to discover, research, collect and popularize works of art created by talented contemporary artists of Russia. The museum collection provides an opportunity to see works of both renowned masters and inherently talented authentic artists who aren’t yet widely known but whose art is already on an outstanding level. Besides displaying its permanent collection in the left wing of the Erarta building in St. Petersburg, the museum is also engaged in exhibition projects, the main one being “Russia in Erarta”, which showcases works by talented artists from Russia’s various regions such as Perm, Krasnodar, Ufa, Novosibirsk and many others. Erarta’s activity is aimed at the widest audience and its goal is to make contemporary art an important part of as many people’s lives as possible and help those without any prior experience of contemporary art develop a passion for it. In order to help achieve those objectives, Erarta Museum is also actively engaged in its own creativity and has created a series of unique projects, which can only be seen within its walls and are aimed at bringing people closer to contemporary art.
E: Despite being a very young museum which only opened its doors in 2010, Erarta has been included in the top 10 museums in Russia on Trip Advisor, mentioned as a “top sight” of St. Petersburg by the Lonely Planet travel guide and became the first museum of contemporary art to be selected for participation in the Google Art Project and opening its doors for virtual walkthroughs by art lovers around the world. With over a quarter million visitors per year and 310,000 followers across various social media platforms, Erarta is one of Russia’s most popular museums.
E: Erarta Gallery promotes Russian contemporary art. All profits from the gallery is reinvested back into the overall Erarta project and go towards supporting and promoting Russian contemporary art. Erarta stages over 50 exhibitions of contemporary Russian art every year – sometimes that’s more than one per week! Also, there’s pretty much always something happening every day as Erarta Stages concerts, plays, lectures, festivals and cinema screenings – a total of more than 300 events per year!
E: One of Erarta’s main goals is to prove that throughout various Russian regions there are authentic, bright and talented artists whose work deserves to be recognized and lauded. As part of Erarta Museum’s main exhibition project, “Russia in Erarta”, St. Petersburg has hosted exhibitions of artists from Samara, Perm, Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk. Izhevsk. Irkutsk. Ufa and Krasnodar. Erarta has also staged return exhibitions in Krasnodar; Perm, Novosibirsk, Surgut, Khanty-Mansiysk and Vyborg. Our museum curators regularly travel across various regions to select works of the most talented artists. The result of the project is the establishment of a cultural cooperation and contemporary art connections between Russia’s various regions as well as investment into and support of Russian art throughout the country.
Can you share a few examples of how Erarta’s unique projects or programs brings people closer to artists and contemporary art?
E: There are several unique projects that one can only experience at Erarta:
• total installations called “U-Space” that are designed to invoke particular feelings or emotions during private 15-minute sessions for visitors.
• the “Theatre with no Actors” project which involves a multimedia play featuring characters of paintings that are brought to life by special audio and video effects.
• the “Art-Animation” project in which a series of humorous and artistic cartoons extend the moment captured by the artist on canvas into a prolonged story.
• the “Art-Literature” project that gives every visitor the opportunity to share his or her thoughts.
• the “Audio Installations” project which presents soundtracks to art, recorded by professional musicians, designed to enhance viewer perception.
Erarta aims to create programs that immerse the audience in the creative process and help everyone to find their own path to understanding, appreciation and love of contemporary art. Every year Erarta hosts the world’s only festival of short films about painting, entitled Erarta Motion Pictures. In 2014, Erarta Museum premiered its own cartoon series about art, entitled “The Adventures of BB Square” which brings to life some of the most famous works of art and placing them in situations of everyday life. The English and Russian versions of this educational and entertaining cartoon have attracted over 4 million views on YouTube.
Another trademark Erarta project is “Cross Art”, the annual festival of art synthesis, which showcases works that were created as part of a fusion of two or more art genres. This project is open to all visitors, so that anyone may participate, and encourages the incorporation of multiple genres of art into one.
Erarta is the largest private museum of contemporary art in Russia. Could you tell us how many people are part of the program?
E: There are over 220,000 visitors of Erarta’s locations Worldwide per annum. Erarta is the most popular Russian art project online with over 310,000 social media followers. The VK.com (Russia’s largest social network) group of over 220,000 subscribers also makes it the largest online museum community in the country.
E: Erarta prides itself on being visitor-oriented and has created all the necessary conditions for not only an interesting but also a pleasant and comfortable visit – state of the art interiors with all signs and texts translated into English, free Wi-Fi coverage across the entire building and friendly English-speaking staff who personify the museum’s focus on service and attention to guests. Our focus on the visitor experience has led the NY Times to describe Erarta as a “familiar landscape for international visitors”. On leisure and shopping fronts, the Erarta building contains a restaurant with a summer terrace, a café and souvenir, print and book shops.
E: The presence of contemporary art can create coziness at home, a special atmosphere at work or create a memorable effect in a public space, which in turns makes a lasting impression on all those who see it.
The Erarta Design team offers solutions for integrating contemporary art into the interiors of private residences, offices and public spaces that include originals, reproductions created on any material, in any size and to any scale, wall-art (a custom technique of applying images to walls and ceilings) and also specially commissioned art objects.
Erarta Design is a crucial part of our work for it brings art home to a broader audience and is thus part of Erarta’s wider mission. One can see examples of cooperation with Erarta Design at St. Petersburg’s Pulkovo Airport, Four Season hotels in St. Petersburg and Moscow as well as numerous offices and private residences around the country and abroad.
- Featured image on the top: A part of the U-Space Cherry Orchard
- Photos courtesy of Erarta Museum of Contemporary Art