Tickets for the exhibition of Vasily Polenov in the Tretyakov Gallery were sold out a week in advance, at the entrance there is a long queue that does not disappear on weekdays or weekends. And such an interest in painting is not an accident, but a pattern of recent times. In June it was impossible to get to Repin, to look at Shchukin's collection flocked both those who are fond of art, and those who are not particularly interested in it.
Over the past few years, almost every exhibition in Moscow has been accompanied by hour-long queues at the museum, heated discussion in society and the media, and even by the doors to the museum blown down by a violent crowd and a field kitchen for those waiting.
BeautyHack special correspondent Alina Fedchenko decided to understand why suddenly Matisse and Gauguin, Serov or Repin, who are on permanent display, organized the audience into a long, slender queue going into the nearest lanes. And she discussed the massive demand for beauty with the art critic at the Synchronization lecture hall, the author of courses on the history of art at the Institute of Slavic Culture of Moscow State University of Theater Arts, Institute of Humanities and Information Technologies Natalia Vostrikova.
Why a selfie in a museum is important
Natalia, you have been in the field of art for many years. Can we say that before your very eyes, interest in art and the demand for education related to it are actively changing? What's going on and why?
- It is unlikely that we will be able to formulate a set of absolute reasons why this is happening, but the fact that interest is changing greatly now is absolutely certain. Not only the demand for exhibitions or theatrical performances, concerts has grown, but the demand for immersion in art, for its understanding, has changed.
Earlier, in the 90s, when I was studying, they looked at the art critic rather with curiosity, as at an outlandish animal. Interest in art was very indirect. The queue could be lined up if something very loud was brought, for example, "La Gioconda" in Pushkinsky in 1981. But there is no need to idealize today either. Let's take even the sensational exhibition of Serov, where an enthusiastic audience knocked down the doors of the museum one day. This is all a little funny, because, to be truthful, out of all those who stood there, more than half - and I will assume that even 70% - knew only one thing about Serov - "Girl with Peaches".
People go to the exhibition because it is fashionable. They come to take a selfie, check into Instagram and say: "Of course, I was on Serov."
But through fashion, well-organized PR or even scandal, curiosity is born - the first step to art.
Exhibitions are no longer just watched, they are trying to understand
- Such phenomena change. First, people look at artists, then they try to understand why they like one and repulse the other, why La Gioconda is a masterpiece, if it is so unattractive. This is how organic interest develops, and it certainly exists in today's society, and continues to grow. We see this absolutely clearly. Group excursions and the struggle for famous tour guides in museums, a huge demand for basic art lectures. I meet people who start with popular ones, for example, the impressionists, and then study the history of art very seriously, and this is not only painting. Therefore, yes, through fashion, interest appears, which leads to art of people who know absolutely nothing about it until yesterday.
Previously, there was no question of additional education for the sake of acquaintance with art. And we must be fair - there was no information. It was almost impossible to find books on classical art history, they simply had not been reprinted for years and were written in such a way that the desire to learn had to overcome all nine circles of hell.
Do you want to say that today, in our society, in the bustle of the city, where even the air is energized, people began not only to watch exhibitions, but also to try to understand them? Trying to figure out what they're watching?
- Social media, which strongly determine social trends, dictate the fashion for culture. Look, now no one admits that they haven’t taken a book in their hands for a year. But the reverse side of this is bright - people take the first step - go to the exhibition, discover a parallel world, which they simply did not know about until yesterday. The question arises: why has someone been doing this for so many centuries? So someone needed it? Why don't I need it?
This is an impetus to study, at first independent, then everything depends on the desire to go deeper. Self-development is the same social trend.
Let's be honest - you can live without art. But until you discover it for yourself, you don't know what you are losing, what you are giving up.
How Instagram is promoting art
Who comes to the lectures? More often these are people who already know something and are guided or completely ignorant?
- Really different. Completely different ages. In the audience, on excursions, we see both girls of 25 years old, and adult ladies, men are still a smaller percentage.
Some already have the baggage of what they have seen, and it raises many questions, a desire arises to understand why this is exactly the case and not otherwise. Why one follows from the other and goes in strict accordance with the structure of the story.
It so happens that a person has seen something in the Uffizi, Prado, Louvre, Hermitage or the Tretyakov Gallery, comes to a lecture, especially if it touches on some cultural and historical aspects, and suddenly - everything comes together in a single picture. From the accumulated knowledge in literature, seen in museums and information at the lecture comes a holistic understanding of the era, and then the artists do not exist separately and do not seem incomprehensible, they, most often, cannot be confused.
But I'll tell you a secret, even art critics do not always get this picture quickly. Therefore, if this does not happen with an ordinary viewer, it is absolutely normal.
It so happens that a person gets to a fashion exhibition, something catches him, and he comes with this little experience to a simple lecture. They are very popular in lecture halls and museums, for example, lectures on the mysteries of paintings, on how to distinguish Manet from Monet. This is the very beginning of the path - but this is already the path! It's interest, which is valuable in itself. And today this road is crowded.
I see that over the past 4-5 years, many different lecture halls have appeared, a huge number of art clubs, online art schools, art historians' accounts, etc. have appeared on social networks. Is it good? How to cut off not-so-high-quality content in this abundance?
- An unconditional benefit! Because all of the above is indisputable evidence that there is the very interest that we are talking about. There was a period in our history when it was absolutely absent, and this is a reflection of an unhealthy society, overwhelmed by other concerns (we are talking about the 90s).
Now we are witnessing a new round of social evolution. And it remains only to observe what this will lead to. The global nature of the process is as follows - what has always been available to a narrow circle becomes available to the wider.
You see, classical art history is such a world of scientific articles. There is an artist and a group of people who live around him, who write about him, and arrange conferences among themselves … And no one knows anything. A person comes to the museum, sees a painting by the artist Watteau, and that's all. It's good if he remembers the last name. When everything goes to mass, it is great and especially valuable. Let them talk more about all this.
Of course, the attitude of the old-timers to this will always be ambiguous. It is explainable. When someone breaks into your diocese from the outside and begins to popularize it, and you see - here they said wrong, here the date is not at all named - of course, a kind of natural jealousy arises. We have been doing this all our lives, and someone suddenly starts telling everyone about Bernini or Van Gogh, and people listen. Why don't they listen to us?
In the process of becoming, any information that is available is seized and eaten. Let there be all these art history blogs of completely different directions. Someone is serious and thoughtful, someone with jokes, jokes, someone with the use of slang - each has its own audience, but she is interested, recognizes and understands.
The Goldfinch and Other Ways to Come to Art
Is the interest in art and the desire to deal with it connected with the fact that society has satisfied its primary vital needs, got the opportunity to see, for example, Florence and the Vatican with its own eyes?
- Absolutely! Art is a pleasure always dear, both for those who create it and for those who study. In general, this is an example of the classic Maslow pyramid. Our society, as a whole, has moved to a different stage. Personal development, the need for personal improvement - the drive to learn are the key ideas now. And it is very joyful that it turns towards art.
They come to him in completely different ways, someone got to a fashion exhibition, someone accidentally had a popular book with a picture on the cover in their hands. Today, almost every person who reads knows the artist Fabritius, the author of the painting The Goldfinch. Do you think anyone heard this name before the release of the novel? Then everything starts to grow, like a lump. And the opportunity to see everything, of course, began to change the look itself.
Do you know how your first visit to the Louvre begins? Three arrows at each turn: Mona Lisa, Nika of Samothrace, Venus de Milo. And it's good if the average visitor knows all three of these characters. Media Venus may be difficult not to recognize, but Nika is already raising questions.
However, he came, put a tick, looked at the three main masterpieces. But we are in the Louvre, a museum of masterpieces, and everything around is strange, crooked, ugly and incomprehensible. Doesn't look like cuddly cats. But everyone is standing there looking, and I looked, but did not understand anything …
Another good example is the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. Man why does an hour stand in front of Bruegel's painting? This is the third time I walk past the hall, and it still stands. What does he see there that I do not see? Is it worth it for a reason? So there is something, but I don’t know? How do I know?
Therefore, of course, economic freedom also affects the attitude towards art. For interest to arise, basic needs must be met.
The more we see, the better we ourselves are. We can say that now we are witnessing the "Cult of Culture". On hearing the names of conductors, performers, artists, they are media characters. This forces even the most uninvolved to pay attention.
Let's return to Serov, about whom, apart from his name, they know little, but they stand in line. This is in all areas, not only in the visual arts. So yes, the cult of culture. And this is great, because it raises a person.
Time of search and freedom
What do you think, this very interest - is it still concentrated in Moscow, St. Petersburg and a couple of other large cities?
- You know, apparently the form matters (laughs). Petersburg is a solid, classical city, with strict lines and a strict attitude to culture. This is the backbone of the basics. But you need to move, and movement is where there is no oppression of "correct" ancestors, and this is Moscow. It is not so complete, and this awakens interest in completely different things.
In St. Petersburg, you can be interested in contemporary art, but wherever you go, the classics strictly look at you. It keeps you in the "right" framework, so Moscow is a little more progressive. This can be seen even in the variety and number of lecture halls.
In St. Petersburg I want to read Dostoevsky, but here in the metro there are Dostoevsky, Dontsova and Pelevin the friend. On the one hand, it is not very good that there is no “pressure from the intelligentsia”. But on the other hand, it gives freedom. Moscow is more free internally, and now this is the main thing.
As always: Petersburg is the northern palmyra, and Moscow is only the capital. Where are the roots of this? They are that art, galleries - was the prerogative of the nobility, and that was in St. Petersburg. In Moscow - private collecting, the Tretyakov Gallery and museums appeared from the merchants.
But for a long time there was an unspoken elitism. Today, thanks to many components, art ceases to be what they do and what only professionals, art critics and the elite study.
And it is here, in Moscow, that this elitism is being erased. Courage arises, people open up, stop being ashamed of their ignorance, ask questions, go to listen to lectures.
The train has a locomotive. Our locomotive of "culture to the masses" is Moscow. She must pick up her speed, determine the exact direction, and then the rest of the cities will "run". This does not mean that there are no passengers in other cities. They just need to wait a bit for the train or walk on foot. Still, the Pushkin Museum is closer to the people than the Hermitage.
What is of greatest interest - painting and old masters, sculpture or contemporary art? What do they often go to study in the lecture hall?
- Probably the greatest interest is painting. Simply because it's easy to watch. If we talk about art in general, sculpture is very difficult to look at. Lectures dedicated only to her are unlikely to be popular. The sculpture cannot be looked at in photographs; it must be seen with the eyes.
Most of all, the audience is attracted by the Middle Ages. This can be traced even through the number of books that are now being published about this period. Because the Middle Ages are mysteries and mysteries. It is inherent in a person to look for symbols, to figure out what was there, he is attracted by everything unusual and not completely clear. There are a lot of interesting miniatures, pictures, details, very unusual and not similar to anything, and this fits very well into our modern clip thinking. My experience speaks of this.
The Baroque period is very different from what we regularly see. This is such an overlap of emotions, which is very much lacking in modern society, moreover, it is interesting because it completely does not correspond to our ideas about the world. For example, Rubens, where everyone has cellulite, including animals. You look and think - well, you can't! You see the goddess Venus, but this goddess needs to be reduced by a factor of four to make it look like something corresponding. After all, this is the goddess of beauty! This is surprising. And surprise clings.
A person is always attracted to polarity, either something very beautiful or just as terrible. She responds. Therefore, the old, the incomprehensible and vice versa - the ultramodern are interesting.
The interest in contemporary art is colossal. It is absolutely unclear. But it is important to remember that any art is always modern. The difficulty is that contemporaries cannot always see that fundamentally new things have been said. The closer art is to us, the more contradictory it becomes. Leonardo could not draw the Black Square. The time and world he lived in did not mean it.
We live in an age of breakthroughs, and artists have absolute freedom. This is not an age of form and technology, but of ideas, thoughts.
When technically you can do everything, an interesting thing turns out - who was just taught to draw, and who really has something to tell the world. And these are different things. Therefore, these extremes are incomprehensible and partly even programmed to be misunderstood.
This story began with the avant-garde. You should be jerked inside. When you stop, you start to wonder and unwittingly become a co-author. A new work cannot live without your own interpretation. An artist can give it, it happens. But still it makes you look, think and draw your own conclusions. The author points out what we do not notice. Contemporary art is always a provocation. She haunts, but makes you develop. Therefore, it is of interest.
We are an era of personalities, bright and individual. Both Bernini and Caravaggio scolded, they terrified society. They will also talk about contemporary contemporary artists. Through shock.
Parting words for those who are on the road leading to art? Where to begin?
- Hmm … You need to take it and just throw yourself into the pool. If the idea of painting is completely at an initial level, then I would recommend a difficult method, but, as I think, the correct one. You come to the museum completely unprepared, you don't mark any list of masterpieces for yourself. And you just go through the halls, turn your head around. After a while, after five or thirty minutes, but you will definitely stop suddenly. Your gaze will catch in this cycle something that will echo inside. It can turn out to be either the work of a great master, or a picture of an ordinary artist who has never been heard of. Start with this picture, try to understand what is in it that chained you. It is very difficult to do this, especially when you know about Raphael in the next room, but are trying to find "your" painting.
Then you will want to pull these threads - to watch something similar. Yours you will never miss. When you return to the museum a week later, you may not remember where that painting hung. But now - it is she who is most important to you.
Probably, you need to start like this. Then you will want to understand, structure and get another pleasure - the pleasure of knowing and understanding. But you need to start by rushing into the pool.
Text: Alina Fedchenko (Instagram @kulturnaya_sreda)
Photo: Alena Konovalova.