After class today we went on an excursion to what we thought would be an “ordinary” fashion exhibit at a gallery in the arts district in Moscow.
When we got there people were waiting outside in black and white attire, clearly anxious to view the exhibition that awaited them. We were a little bit embarrassed because we were extremely underdressed compared to our fellow exhibition-seekers, and were almost denied entry.
But of course, our professor, Tatiana Zimakova, used her charms and never-ending cache of connections to convince the powers that be that these “very important” international students should be allowed inside despite their shabby appearances.
The fashion exhibit, “Art Deco and Fashion: Golden 20s!” was stunning, with an array of intricately beaded dresses, fur-trimmed coats and handmade shoes and purses all dating from the 1920s. The clothes were obviously very expensive and on display behind glass encasements (perhaps so that the cocktails and hors’ devours that were being served would not find their way onto the one-of-a-kind fabrics).
While we were taking in the sights, Tatiana was extremely excited, for we were surrounded by Russian film stars, directors, and famous fashion designers. A TV film crew was meandering through the crowd, interviewing various authorities in the Russian arts. Honestly, it was a bit surreal. Although we didn’t know who any famous person was, the aura of the room was electric, and you could feel that this was a very special occasion.
As we would later realize, we were pretty lucky to be able to attend such an elite, invitation-only event, all the while experiencing a kind of fashionable art that we were all rarely (if ever) exposed to. Unbelievably, the best part of the whole experience had not yet begun.
The artist behind the art
Once we finished viewing the beautiful costume pieces, we found our way to the main part of the Art Gallery of Zurab Tsereteli, in which exquisitely colorful paintings and intricate bronze sculptures were housed. The whole group was standing in front of statues of the last reigning Romanov family, taking pictures, when the man who owned the entire gallery and was the artist behind all of its work, and the President of the Russian Academy of Art, Zurab Tsereteli, came walking into the enormous room with his entourage of assistants. I sincerely believed Tatiana would have a heart attack. (Photo right: Mr. Tsereteli with our group.)
Once she regained her composure, she eagerly walked up to him and introduced her group of American students. Mr. Tsereteli was extremely warm and kind, and mentioned many times how much he enjoyed the United States and that some of his work was there.
After a few minutes of chatting, one of Mr. Tsereteli’s assistants came into the room with an armful of huge books, both in Russian and in English. We were all told to pick one (I chose English) and Mr. Tsereteli autographed them for us. We were shocked. This man was famous and wealthy beyond imagination, and here he was giving away free copies of his autobiography to a group of scraggly American students.
Eventually he was told by his assistants that he must leave and return to the opening of the fashion exhibit and party he was hosting, but he did so reluctantly. I was under the impression that speaking to more “normal” people was what interested him, which only added to his intrigue.
After leaving the gallery, we went to the nearest swanky artists’ cafe and marveled over what an amazing experience we just had. I doubt if I will ever experience anything like it again.