Zurab Tsereteli: Russia’s Greatest Living Artist
You may never have heard of one of the most successful artists in the world. Despite his titanic international reputation, position of primacy within Russia, and status as a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, he’s not well known to the general public in the rest of the world. Today we’re taking a look at Zurab Tsereteli, and explaining why you need to be aware of his work.
His early career was defined by a project given to him by the then Soviet government: to bring art to the masses by designing a series of bus stops, shelters or pavilions across the Abkhazia region, near the Black Sea. Tsereteli was inspired by the landscape he was working in and these bus shelters took the form of large seashells, decorated with mosaics and murals.
This propelled him to prominence, and he’s continued to work on large scale projects since, in many ways becoming an unofficial arm of Russia’s diplomatic service. The power of art to create relationships between nations is not to be underestimated and Tsereteli’s works have been in the days around the USSR and then Russia opening up to the rest of the world to help to build the cultural and diplomatic links so important to a nation taking a new place on the world stage .
Tsereteli’s work has often been gifted around the world in the name of international understanding and cooperation: ‘Break the Wall of Mistrust’ was presented to the City of London around the time of fall of the Berlin Wall – it’s title is a conscious reference to the political upheaval of the era, and it’s presentation as a gift helped to make links with the UK at a time when Russia was looking to the rest of the world again.
The Teardrop Memorial
One of Tsereteli’s most well-known works is often referred to as the Teardrop Memorial, or simply the Teardrop. Its full name is ‘To The Struggle Against World Terrorism’, and it was presented to the United States as a memorial to the victims of the attacks on the World Trade Centre in 2001. It was a tense time for the international community: the first major event since the Cold War that could put to the test the new links between the countries that were previously locked in a conflict.
The presentation of this stunning sculpture (a silver teardrop suspended in a ten story tower) helped to reassure the citizens of the United States that Russia stood with them.
Now 85, Tsereteli is still creating work, though he’s also a major part of the art establishment in Russia. He’s the President of the Russian Academy of Arts, helping to mould the next generation of artists. He also serves a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, continuing his work building links between different nations.