Where alcohol supports art

Richard Wallis

08 February, 2021

How a liquor king is creating of a new art residence in one of Russia’s most dramatic landscapes, the Taman Peninsula, the strip of land that divides the Black Sea from the Sea of Azov.

The philanthropist and collector Alexander Mechetin is not only the founder of one of Russia’s best-known Vodka brands, but also an active patron of the arts. His latest initiative in this field is launching a splendid art residence overlooking the sea in that peninsula. The first exhibition to take place there was a solo one featuring the artist Alisa Yoffe (b. 1987).

The curators of the second exhibition Sergei Kulikov (b. 1976) and Nikolay Smirnov (b. 1982) set ‘Utopia’ as a theme for three artists and gave that second exhibition the title of ‘Taman Decameron’. This is a virus-inspired reference to Giovanni Boccaccio’s 14th century tales created to distract seven ladies and three of their male admirers, who are staying in a villa outside Florence in the hope of avoiding the plague known as the Black Death. The very original art collective ‘ZIP’ from the southern Russian city of Krasnodar, formed by Evgeny Rimkevich (b. 1987), Vasily Subbotin (b. 1991) and Stepan Subbotin (b. 1987) decided to add some humour to the show. With typical irony, the members of the group came up with the idea of creating an annual summer residence whose slogan would be “Art on Holiday”.

The two other participants of that ‘Utopia’ experiment were the photographer Alina Desyatnichenko (b. 1991), also from Krasnodar, and the Moscow artist Vladimir Migachev (b. 1959).

The Golubitskoe Estate, on which the art residence stands, plans to add an ‘Art Park’ focused on contemporary artists, which will include “Concept Gardens”. All these projects are due to open in the Spring of 2021. Vineyards cover the estate, as in many parts of Taman where wine-making has become the new fashion.

It wasn’t always like this. Although the great Russian poet Mikhail Lermontov (1814–1841) admired the beauty of the peninsula’s landscapes, he seems to have had a very different opinion of the town of Taman where he stopped briefly on his way to Caucasus.

“Taman is the worst little town of all the coastal cities of Russia,” is what he made Pechorin, the main protagonist, say in his classic novel ‘The Hero of our Time’. Mechetin, the owner of this paradise in the making, has chosen as his foundation’s main curator Alisa Bagdonayte, with whom he had in 2013 created the Zarya Contemporary Art Centre in the Russian Far East’s city of Vladivostok.

The Taman Decameron

Golubitskoe Art Foundation

Krasnodar Region, Russia

December 10, 2020 – April 3, 2021

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