Riding from the airport in the wee hours I watched a colorful sunrise at 3:45 am as we sped toward downtown St. Petersburg. Ringing the bell at my hostel received no response so I went in search of some sustenance of the 24-hour variety. Burger King was shut, but the ever-dependable kebab joint was open and ready for business. They even had entertainment in the form of an elderly drunk Russian, whom the Egyptian owner was having little success in removing from his restaurant. Every time he threw him out on the street, he just kept coming back babbling in incoherent Russian and forcing his way back inside.
Eventually, the kebab vendor closed the door as well, only to have the inebriated interloper return and bang on the glass. Much vitriol ensued until finally, the poor, beleaguered, old sod weaved his way up Nevsky Street to his next misbegotten encounter. How very, unpleasantly stereotypical.
Thankfully this moment was redeemed the next day by an encounter with another Russian Icon but in this case, one that is beloved by people young and old, and even a few Americanskis like myself.
I speak of the heartwarming Cheburashka whose cartoons filled the airwaves back in 1969 with only four episodes having been produced. Two songs written for the stop animation, puppet cartoons have become eternal classics. One of them is even used as a song sung at birthdays.
The songs were written by Vladimir Shainsky, a composer of classical music, but he will probably be long forgotten for that and remembered forever for his Cheburashka contributions which were sung by a hat wearing, pipe smoking, accordion-playing crocodile named Gena. As he played the accordion his cherubic friend Cheburashka would often dance along to the music.
CHEBURASHKA – This giant version of the Russian icon welcomed me to St. Petersburg. I was originally introduced to him by a fine artist from St. Petersburg called Igor Tulipanov who had a video cartoon of this creature that science has yet to identify.
Beloved by all, Cheburashka receives a hug from one of his many adoring fans. He was also the Russian mascot for a couple of Olympic games. Johnny Weir, U.S. Olympic figure skating medalist, and Russophile has a large collection of Cheburashka memorabilia. This Cheburashka suit wearing individual is clearly part of the “Furry” movement. The furry fandom is a subculture of people interested in fictional anthropomorphic animal characters with human personalities and characteristics. Examples of anthropomorphic attributes include exhibiting human intelligence and facial expressions, the ability to speak, walk on two legs, and wear clothes. Unlike their costume wearing contemporaries in Times Square in NYC, these people are not looking for a handout. They are purists whose only commerce is the return of a hug.
This is the beautiful building that Cheburashka hangs out in front of trolling for hugs. It also houses the wonderful gourmet food, tea and pastry shop pictured below.
CHURCH OF THE SAVIOR ON SPILLED BLOOD
AMAZING MOSAICS THROUGHOUT
Russian Folk Singer – She had an amazing voice and piercing eyes.
PALACE SQUARE & ALEXANDER COLUMN
REAR VIEW OF THE HERMITAGE MUSEUM
Part of a maritime statue near the river across from the Hermitage.
These statues are found at the four corners of the bridge, but the ever-present wires interfere with an otherwise pleasing photograph. This is not an isolated incident. This visual noise is snaking its way throughout the city, and is a photographer’s nightmare. I just bought a computer program that is supposed to help out with this, but just the same it takes away a lot of the charm as you walk the streets.
PETERHOF DAY TRIP
SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL THIS WAY COMES
THE PETERHOF GRAND PALACE
THE GRAND CASCADE
THE TRAVEL ZEALOT & HIGH MAINTENANCE RUSSIAN GIRLFRIEND
THE GRAND CASCADE
It is rumored that our so-called President would like one of these for his bathroom in Trump Tower. That way he can indulge himself in viewing golden showers at his whim.
THE LION CASCADE
THE GOLDEN HILL CASCADE
MARLEY PALACE – 1720-1723
Going to the far side of the palace, and shooting underneath the hedge was worth the effort.
The palace grounds are forested throughout and are crisscrossed by a network of well-groomed, tree-lined pathways.
This is basically the view in between the palaces that are on the far reaches of the grounds.
GOLD SAMOVAR AND SERVICE
Assorted Enameled and Jeweled Clocks & Belt Buckles
People in the Tsar’s court having grown weary of diamonds and other gems came to place more value on these beautifully crafted objects. Tobacco and snuff boxes became the favorite gifts of the upper crust.
MINIATURES OF ALL SORTS WERE PRIZED POSSESIONS
Owning a thermometer like this would certainly make one feel a little bit better about being sick. Cough, cough. “Oh goody, I get to use the FABERGÉ thermometer!”
SALVADOR DALI – Presenting his Venus de Milo with drawers in May of 1964.
By chance, there was a Salvador Dalí exhibit as well featuring artworks from later in his career.
Salvador DALÍ – Woman With A Butterfly – 1958
Salvador DALÍ – Untitled from “Giuliano de Medici” – 1982
Salvador DALÍ – Untitled from “Giuliano de Medici” – 1982
Salvador DALÍ – Untitled from Michelangelo’s “Palestrina Pieta” – 1982
ART OF THE DOUGHNUT – This place called Pyshechnaya is an old Soviet doughnut shop that is a favorite of Russian residents and visitors to St. Petersburg alike. No visit to St. Petersburg is complete without a visit to this establishment. There is usually a 15-20 minute wait, but I was lucky at just under ten minutes. They were delicious as was the coffee all for a mere $1.70.
ETERNAL FLAME – This is the monument to the millions of Russians who died during WWII. Many are buried under the surrounding ground. Lest we forget, it is doubtful we would have prevailed over Hitler without Russia’s sacrifice of 20 million people.
THE HAT – This is my new favorite jazz venue in St. Petersburg which is frequented by many musicians. It is also proof positive that Jazz Culture is alive and well here. The crowd is comprised mainly of twenty and thirty-somethings. Russian youth have good taste in music.
Top class jazz, quality cocktails, and a large selection of good scotch make this one of the hottest destinations in town. I just come for the jazz.
Carl FABERGÉ – Rothchild Clock Egg Cockerel – 1902 “Gift of President Vladimir Putin”
Carl FABERGÉ – Miniature Copy of the Imperial Regalia
Carl FABERGÉ – Mantle Clock – Gift of President Vladimir Putin
“25th. Wedding Anniversary of Alexander III and Maria Feodorovna”
Carl FABERGÉ – Frame with a Miniature Portrait of a Boy
Carl FABERGÉ – Jade & Silver Pencil Holder – 1893
Èmile GALLÉ – Inlay Table with Carved Dragonfly-shaped Legs – 1900
GIFTS FROM AMERICA: 1948-2013
MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY APPLIED ART
Dan DAILEY – Three Byzantine Sconces – 2002
Anne CURRIER – Contraction – 2002
Judy MOONELIS – Head – 1982
THE ART OF SHOES
Here’s a little something for the ladies. I know these are torture to some, but they are pretty to look at regardless. Ironic to pay so much to endure such pain.
SHOE JOSEFA – 2017
D’ORSAY EGIPANE – 2016-17
BOTTINE EVOCA – 2011-12
SANDAL IVY – 1972
MULE ODALISKA – 2012
BOTTINE MARGOLOTTA – 2012
Antony GORMLEY – Level – 2010
Jacques LIPCHITZ – Jacob and the Angel – 1932
Jacques LIPCHITZ – John F. Kennedy – 1964-65
Jacques LIPCHITZ – Return of the Child – 1941-1946
Wassily KANDINSKY – Composition VI – 1913
Henri MATISSE – Portrait of Lydia Delectorskaya – 1947
Henri MATISSE – Music – 1910
Henri MATISSE – Dance – 1910
Henri MATISSE – Vase of Irises – 1912
Henri MATISSE – Fruit, Flowers, and Panel Dance – 1909
Henri MATISSE – Girl with Tulips – 1910
Henri MATISSE – The Red Room (Harmony in Red) – 1908
Henri MATISSE – Bouquet (Vase with Two Handles) – 1907
Jean JOVENEAU – Still Life with a Mirror – 1912
Henri ROUSSEAU – Luxembourg Garden, Monument to Chopin – 1909
André DERAIN – Martigues (Port in Provence) – 1913
Pablo PICASSO – Bust of a Nude – 1907
Pablo PICASSO – Table in a Café (Bottle of Pernod) – 1912
Pablo PICASSO – Violin and Guitar – 1912-1913
Fernand LÉGER – Postcard – 1932-1948
Pierre BONNARD – On the Mediterranean (Triptych) – 1911
Louis VALTAT – By the Boat – 1899
Paul SIGNAC – Port of Marseilles – 1906-1907
VAN GOGH ROOM
Vincent VAN GOGH – Morning: Going Out to Work – 1890
Vincent VAN GOGH – Bush – 1889
Vincent VAN GOGH – Memory of the Garden at Etten (Ladies of Arles) – 1888
Claude MONET – Corner of the Garden and Pond at Montegron – 1876
Claude MONET – Woman in a Garden – 1876
Auguste RENOIR – In the Garden – 1885
Auguste RENOIR – Portrait of the Actress Jeanne Samary
Edgar DEGAS – The Dancer – 1874
Edgar DEGAS – Woman Combing Her Hair – 1885
Paul GAUGIN – Woman Holding a Fruit – 1893
Paul GAUGIN – Sacred Spring – 1894
Paul GAUGIN – Two Sisters – 1892
Marie LAURENCIN – Artemis – 1908
Henri FANTIN-LATOUR – Bouquet of Roses and Nasturtiums – 1883
Jean-Jacques HENNER – Study of a Woman in Red – Early 1890’s
Charles HOFFBAUER – In London – 1907
THE HAT – An inspired night of Dixieland jazz in “The Hat”.
A DAY AT THE HERMITAGE MUSEUM
Tirade of Ramses II with the Gods Amun and Mut
TERPSICHORE – Muse of Dance
Athena – Roman work. 2nd. century A.D. After the Greek original of the 5th. century B.C.
Bust of Augustus – 1st. century A.D.
Torso of Aphrodite – Roman work. 2nd. cent. A.D. after the Greek original of the 4th. cent. B.C.
RED-FIGURE-VOLUTE-KRATER – 325-300 B.C.
Malachite Vase – 1841
LAPIS LAZULI VASE
MALACHITE VASE AND TABLES
Stefano TORELLI – Portrait of Countess A.A. Chernyshova
PEACOCK CLOCK – Restoration of the Timepiece and Musical Mechanism was done in 1995.
‘Anselm Kiefer for Khlebnikov’ is an exhibition dedicated to a poet who changed the Russian language and predicted the October Revolution. Even its name is like the title of a book, the heading of a Futurist manifesto, a poetic gesture. According to the artist himself, Kiefer came across Khlebnikov’s work in the 1970s. He read him in the German translation, and could therefore only get a partial sense of his untranslatable futuristic word-creation. It is unsurprising that Khlebnikov’s name started to come up regularly in Kiefer’s work above all in terms of the poet’s prose, which is more easily translated and primarily in the context of his theory of numerology.
Anselm Kiefer was born in a little German town Donaueschingen in 1945, a few months before the end of the war. Researching the themes of suppression of guilt and pain, which paralyzed his generation, Kiefer became one of the first artists who blatantly and directly addressed such topics as Nazism and the Holocaust. In 1980 Kiefer was to represent Germany at the Venice Biennale. In the following years, his solo shows took place at the Kunsthalle in Dusseldorf, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, the Royal Academy of Arts in London, the Grand Palais and Centre Pompidou in Paris. Anselm Kiefer is the only living artist to be incorporated into the permanent display of the Louvre. In his oeuvre, he faces the themes of history, religion, literature, philosophy, images of memory and heritage. The source of inspiration for Kiefer is world culture in its most wide perspective: German history, religious mysticism, antique verification, and Mesopotamian mythology.
The Hermitage Exhibition presents an entirely new series of works: the dry Teutonic landscapes are flooded with moisture, overgrown with forests, suffused with the smoothness of lakes. It feels as though these views have acquired a Russian dimension, and the boats: the look of a Russian berth. Although the canvasses are inspired by the German landscape, they convey something of the motif of the well-worn track that is so inescapably Russian, as in Levitan’s Vladimirska (1892). Kiefer’s ships are hopelessly entrapped in these rapidly darkening forests and roads. Their fate, it appears, is to be stuck here forever, having become a brackish brown element of these plains: plains that are composed, perhaps, of indistinguishable fragments of just the same ships that end up on this mystical sea-bed every 317 years of never-ending history. The battles have already taken place or still lie ahead every 317 years, but the iron carcasses have been suspended in time, as it continues its unrelenting monstrous course, flooding the world, drying up the sea and harboring secret signs.
The title of the Hermitage exhibition, given in the form of dedication, defines it as a type of ekphrasis: the artist is creating his reading of the essence of the poet’s work through artistic objective means. This owes as much to the combination of various painterly techniques as it does to the general texture and color scheme. The uneven, dirty, casually contemplative surface of the canvas requires a logical explanation which can only be found in the final form of the work. Kiefer aligns his canvasses with the colors of nature itself: nature deserted by mankind, or not yet populated by it. The black strokes make you think of the charred and sooty remnants of destructive fires, the rutted road – of the movement of heavy vehicles. Kiefer imagines and sketches out an imagined battlefield that only needs a name. What this name will be – heroic or infamous – history will decide, its paths are unknowable. Having read Khlebnikov’s writings only in transition, the artist creates his own non-verbal text that in complexity comes close to and resonates with the poet’s imagery. The dedication to Khlebnikov transforms an original system of essentially pictorial relationships into something that is both graphic and poetic.
ANSELM KIEFER – For Velimir Khlebnikov
Anselm KIEFER – New Theory of War, Fates of Nations – 2015-17
Anselm KIEFER – Untitled – 2009-2017
Anselm KIEFER – New Theory of War, Fates of Nations – 2016
Anselm KIEFER – Detail – These pieces are large, and that metal object is the size of a bed.
Anselm KIEFER – Untitled – 2015-16
Anselm KIEFER – Untitled – 2016
Anselm KIEFER – New Theory of War, Fates of Nations – 2015-2017
Anselm KIEFER – The Painter’s Studio – 2015-2017
Anselm KIEFER – Untitled – 2015-2017
MECHANICAL ORCHESTRAL CLOCK – In-Built Organ – Johann Georg Strasser – 1793-1801
THE MALACHITE ROOM
BRONZE AGE EXHIBITS
VESSEL – Settlement Zhury – 4th. Millenium B.C.
Another killer night at “The Hat” with a female and a male vocalist.
Yelena – A Russian woman who asked me to dance after I gave up my seat so she and her friends could sit together.
ONE LAST LOOK
Near the cathedral, down an alley, past a dumpster with some street art…..
MUSEUM OF SOVIET ARCADE GAMES
They give you a handful of old Soviet coins to use in the machines.
AN OLD SUBMARINE GAME LIKE I PLAYED AS A TEENAGER
AN OLD CABLE CAR LEADS THE WAY TO “THE HAT”
A QUALITY PIECE OF ART THAT GRACES THE WALL OF THE ESTABLISHMENT
THE OWNER INTRODUCING THE TALENT FOR THE EVENING AS HE DOES EVERY NIGHT
THEY PUT ON A GOOD SHOW FOR MY LAST NIGHT
THE HAT’S PREMIER BARTENDER – This is the only guy I know that could rock a man bun. He had that tough Russian edge and the beard to offset the thing. Also, it wasn’t a perfectly formed bun so this helped considerably, but this is all far from the point I am trying to make. He is gazing at the expertly shaken grasshopper he has just created and is wondering why it is not being consumed.
It’s because the girl’s mouth that it’s meant to be poured into is currently blocked up by some drunk idiot’s tongue. When he finally managed to disengage himself from her face, he got the drink and proceeded to spill it all over her dress thus disgracing himself with the young lady, and showing considerable disrespect for the barman’s skills.
Of course, a few days earlier, some besotted buttmunch with a handful of rum and cokes felt the need to give my lap a bit of a Cuba Libre christening. Thankfully he didn’t feel the need to stick his tongue down my throat first, as well.