Minsk through the looking glass

more than a year ago

As any art historian will tell you, during the first 15 years or so after the October Revolution of 1917, any forms-of art in the Soviet Union, including that in the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic as Belarus was known from 1920 onwards, was notable for its remarkable experimentation. From around 1932 onwards however, when both art and the people who produced it were put under the direct control of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, all creative output destined for public consumption was forced to conform to the narrow and politically dogmatic requirements of Socialist Realism. Art became a political tool, and the people who made it became heroes. The incredible Minsk Art Factory is an extraordinary legacy of this period. Founded in 1947 on the site of a former windmill, it was from this mid-boggling ensemble of buildings that every major artistic project carried out in Minsk, including almost all the remaining Soviet-era works of public art that can be seen in the city today, was produced. An incredible collection of studios and workshops churning out everything from stained glass to metal statues to huge monuments carved from stone, the ‘factory’ grew over the years to include every conceivable creative activity, housing, as a memorial plaque on the outside of one of the buildings testifies, many of the country’s leading artistic names. Independence and the collapse of the Soviet Union two decades ago saw an end to its state-financed activities, although far from closing down the Minsk Art Factory has spectacularly reinvented itself. A number of its original inhabitants alongside some newer additions can still be found working here, applying their amazing range of skills to less political ends and creating some wonderful works of art along the way. Intrigued by what was going on inside, we dropped by recently as part of a larger adventure visiting a wide range of artists working in Minsk today and visited three different workshops.

Igor Barkhatkov

Born in 1958, Igor Barkhatkov is the Minsk-born son of the well known painter Anton Barkhatkov and the singer Sofia Barkhatkova. The artist trained in the best Soviet traditions in painting and graphics, his landscapes capture the light so well that they’re almost frightening in their beauty. The most interesting thing about Igor however is his hobby. Lurking in an attic room in the centre of Minsk that was once his father’s studio, Igor has amassed somewhere in the region of 1,000 Soviet-era paintings, lithographs and other 2D works dating from the 1920s that, should you get a chance to see them, rank as one of the most extraordinary experiences possible in Minsk. Among them are the works of many of the leading Belarusian artists of their day including A. Barkhatkov, V. Kubarev, M. Sevruk, V. Tsvirko, B. Basov, R. Gembitsky, M. Stanyuta, E. Krasovsky to name but a few. Discerning collectors, prick up your ears! Much of this work is for sale! For further information, call us on tel. (+375 29) 678 27 79.


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