How to get to Malevich in Moscow

Feb 10, 2018

The struggle against the snow is in full swing here. Huge tractors with snow shovels in front and rotating brooms behind them are cleaning the roads. Armies of Kyrchiz, Chechens, Tatars, Ossets, Tadzjiks and Yakuts dressed in warm army clothes are scratching the ice from the pavements. The grey and white piles that these modern slaves have gathered are put it in enormous lorries by little Bobcats that ride of and on. And the trucks on their turn, carry all this cold water to the proverbial sea. All in vain of course. As soon as the pavement is clean and dry, it starts snowing again, and the whole process begins all over.
Walking is by no means easy, even if you wear high shoes with good profiles. A thin layer of treacherous snow hides the ice from sight and suggests a good grip for your shoes. Beware, beware! Walking in the beautiful snowy landscape becomes very tiresome after a while.
After half an hour of wandering in the vast Expo Center park (VDNKh, All-Russia Exhibition Center), I decided to ask in the Armenian Pavilion the whereabouts of the exhibition I came for. I expected large questioning eyes when I asked: “Do you know where the Malevich exhibition is?” But the answer came as a surprise: “Ah, the artist from the Black Square!” One of the waiters knew where to put Malevich. And he told me that the exhibition was in the pavilion with the sculpture by Vera Mukhina. He put his arm in the air to indicate the sculpture, but I knew what he meant. I have seen the model many times in the Tretyakov Gallery. It is a truly iconic statue

It took some time to get to the exhibition over the slippery pathways and the cold almost got a grip on me. But standing in front of the pavilion, all this snowy misery was forgotten. There they were, as big as they were once conceived: The Worker and Kolkhoz Woman. Very powerful and impressive, to say the least. 

According to the Moscow artist Andrey Monastyrsky*, this complex of the VDNKh is the central mandala of the government of Soviet society. Here you can see how the sacred and the real intersect in the general system of government of the Soviet Union and in the awareness of the Soviet people. The guardians and custodians of this huge area are titans. The gilded figures of the men and women on the Cosmos Pavilion, the other pavilions and the arch of the main entrance. And although they are just a little outside the Expo Center park, the Worker and Kolkhoz Woman with their 24 meters hight fit well in this titanic company. Imagine them standing at the Trocadéro, on a bank of the Seine at the Paris World Expo in 1937.  To know that they stood opposite the German Pavilion! After a laborious restoration and reconstruction, they were installed here, just outside the Expo Center. And here they are after all these years: protecting the costly works of Malevich.


*Andrey Monastyrsky, ‘VDNKh, the capital of the world’, in: Zaytseva, Elena, and Alex Anikina. Cosmic Shift : Russian Contemporary Art Writing. London 2017, pp. 69-91

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