I just heard about Zuk Club a couple of weeks ago. It was in passing and I didn’t quite get what it was all about. And then life took over and I forgot about it. That is until yesterday when I was out hunting down interesting places in my neighborhood. I was coming across Bolshaya Polyanka from First Khvostov Lane in the Yakimanka district south of the Moskva River and something simply grabbed my eyesight and yanked it in its direction. You see it above, it was a huge portrait of Igor Stravinsky. Based on information on Zuk Club’s Facebook page this went up in mid-November, maybe on the 18th. I hadn’t seen it yet and its effect was enormous when I did. I almost burst out laughing. I didn’t want to move from my position in the middle of the street, even though cars were bearing down on me.
This is not the kind of thing you see in Moscow. Moscow has never been particularly whimsical, and street art of this kind is all about whimsy. Yekaterinburg has tons of street art – there are even walking tours you can take to see little gnomes drawn into decaying garages, short works of literature written into the crevices in walls, and murals painted on building sidings. On my street, Pyatnitskaya, there has long been a gorgeous, colorful fairy-tale-type tree painted on a building siding, but I’ve always treasured this especially because it was so one-of-a-kind. But, surprisingly enough, there occasionally are new things under both the sun and the the low, gray Moscow sky. It turns out that this Stravinsky mural is just one of many that in recent times have sprung up all over Moscow. There are already huge murals of Mikhail Bulgakov, Sergei Eisenstein, Alexander Scriabin, Alexander Rodchenko, Vladimir Tatlin and Sergei Rachmaninov and that isn’t a full list. I’ll have to get out and do some work on that, but for the time being the Stravinsky portrait at 33 Bolshaya Polyanka will suffice.
Based on information from Zuk Club’s website, it would appear that the group has been in existence since 2011. It has done hundreds of murals and pieces of street art all over Russia and Europe. The Stravinsky and other such portraits in Moscow were mounted as part of the Best City on Earth program run by the Moscow Culture Committee with support from an organization called Novatek Art. There is a kind of revolving stable of artists who work on different projects including Kirill Stefanov, Artyom Stefanov,
Sergei Ovseikin, Maxim Malyarenko, Irina Zvidrina, Kirill Smirnov, Alexander Kochergin, Sergei Belikov, Alexander Okootin, Stepan Leshenko, Lisa Smirnova, Nikita Pavlov and Olya Shirokostup. I grabbed all these names from a virtual gallery on the Zuk Club site that shows 100 of the group’s projects done since May 2011.
Stravinsky (1882-1971) is a perfect portrait to have in my neighborhood. I consider myself rather challenged in my knowledge and appreciation of classical music. Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan and Van Morrison saw to that. But I’m not a total rube – at least, not all of the time – and Stravinsky is one of the reasons for that. When I lived in Washington, D.C. – way-way-way-way-way-way back, as Van Morrison would sing it – I had a cassette tape of Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale that I played in the car all the time. On the flip side was a recording of his Dumbarton Oaks concerto, which I loved no less. That particular piece always had especial meaning because the park at Dumbarton Oaks was located just a few blocks from where I worked and I would, on occasion, wander up there to dream on my lunch break. None of those dreams came true. At least they haven’t yet. Which doesn’t have any effect whatsoever on my affection for Stravinsky, and, perhaps, even enhances the attachment I feel to this portrait of him that has unexpectedly showed up in my neighborhood.