July 6, 1998

Too many victories, St. Petersburg suffers from too many triumphs. Monuments, statues, palaces, gilded spires, and church domes, all have to be rehabilitated after years of neglect.

The surfeit of grand edifices is a boon to some artists of St. Petersburg: They have many attractive spaces in which to show their work. Some artists reject the "tzarist-tainted" mansions, and prefer to exhibit in rough-hewn apartments. Apparently, the demise of Communism has not diminished the Russian penchant for ideological warfare.

At the center of the St. Petersburg art controversy is TIMOR NOVIKOV. He laughingly proclaims that the movement he founded, Neo-Academism, is a "strong and dangerous conservative movement." He recently published a magazine, Artistic Will, celebrating one hundred years of whatever you want. "It depends," Novikov adds.

Neo-Academist artists with hatchets
Neo-Academist artists with hatchets.
Novikov at home
Novikov at home. In the background are elegant banners of fabric, framing cameo images.

The heads that these hatchet men are after belong to Richard Serra and Joseph Beuys, whom they believe champion ugliness in art. Novikov rails against Serra's monstrous metal slabs and the junk that Beuys assembles in his work. Beauty, tradition, classical images, this is what art would be about if Novikov were Tsar. Yet at one time, during act one of his career, Novikov was known as the most radical artist in St. Petersburg.

The RIVER BOYS are young artists and poets who banded together as teenagers, and now several years later are part of the mythology of the good old days.
The River Boys

River Boy Rave
A few clips slapped together from a recent rave, optimized for 28.8 bps.

(3:49 min. You'll need RealPlayer
to see and hear these clips)

A Rogue's Gallery of River Boys (six of the gang of seven)
River Boys 1River Boys 2River Boys 3River Boys 4River Boys 5River Boys 6

Grouzov and a couple of his River Boy pals now stage raves. Raves are genuine; the danger is real.

ROMAN GROUZOV is a River Boy adrift. He finds the art game too difficult to fathom. He has chosen to operate on a street level where he can have direct contact with people, unmediated by an art establishment.
Grouzov in his squat studio
Grouzov in his squat studio
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©1998 The Museum of Modern Art, New York