ART RUSSE COLLECTION: SYMBOLS OF AN EPOCH
22 Apr 21
The collection of sculptures of the Art Russe Foundation has expanded with new unique artefacts – the six original plaster models for the composition of the Peoples’ Friendship Fountain at the VDNKh National Exhibition Centre, by the Soviet sculptor Alexei Teneta (1899-1972). In particular, the collection of the Foundation now includes models for the central part of the fountain – the figures of representatives of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.
Located on the Central Alley of VDNKh next to the Main Pavilion, the Peoples’ Friendship Fountain is one of the symbols of the City of Moscow and a cultural heritage site of national significance. The fountain was built in 1951-1954 to mark the inauguration of the modernised Exhibition Centre on August 1, 1954. The project was designed by architects Constantin Topuridze and Grigori Konstantinovski. The technical design and the hydraulic system design are by engineer Vladimir Klyavin. The sculptural decoration was executed by a team of sculptors including Zinaida Bazhenova, Alexei Teneta, Iosif Tchaikov and Zoya Ryleeva, while the mosaic panels were created in the USSR Academy of Arts studios. In the centre of the fountain there is a giant sheaf composed of the main agricultural crops of the USSR; along the perimeter of the structure there are sculptures of young women in national costumes, symbolizing the 16 republics that were constituents of the USSR in 1954.
16 sketches of plaster models (according to the number of the republics) for the main fountain of the USSR Exhibition Centre were submitted to the Art Council for consideration by each of the four members of the team of sculptors. Ultimately, eight of the sixteen sculptures were created according to the models by Alexei Teneta. When making the full-size figures, the sculptor finalized the models in accordance with the recommendations of the Art Council.
The collection of the Art Russe Foundation now includes six models symbolizing the Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Armenian, Kyrgyz and Lithuanian soviet socialist republics. Each of the young women is dressed in a national costume and holds the agricultural crops of her republic. Kept in the sculptor's family since their creation in the late 1940s, the models were handed over to the Art Russe Foundation by the sculptor's daughter, member of the Union of Artists of Russia Victoria Teneta.
An expert examination of the acquired sculptures identified the need for professional scientific restoration. The restoration work was carried out by winner of the Silver Medal of the Russian Academy of Arts, member of the Sculpture Section of the Moscow Union of Artists, sculptor-restorer Ekaterina Shubnyakova. “Alexei Teneta created these models about 70 years ago, and the past years, of course, have left their mark on the sculptures. Gypsum plaster is a rather delicate material, while there are many details in the figures - complex folds of national costumes, volumetric elements of plants, portraits, etc. Indeed, the project required meticulous and painstaking work. It took very long to clean the sculptures, and the restoration of damaged elements was challenging and laborious. The total restoration time was approximately 7 months."
After the restoration was completed, the plaster models were used to make bronze copies as limited editions, which will be donated by the Art Russe Foundation to the national museums of Ukraine, Belarus, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, and Lithuania.
Art Russe founder Andrei Filatov:
‘A rare museum-quality works such as these, significant both in terms of their artistic and historical value, would make any art collection proud. This acquisition is a great success and a great honour for us. I am very grateful to Mrs. Victoria Teneta for the trust she placed in our Foundation. These works will take a worthy place in the Art Russe collection and will contribute to our main goal of raising awareness of Russian art, of which Soviet sculpture is a significant component.’
Art Russe Foundation was established by entrepreneur Andrei Filatov in 2012 to implement educational projects aiming to raise awareness of 20th-centurry Russian art. The collection of the Foundation includes master artworks in a variety of genres, dating to the period 1917-1991. The Foundation aims to raise awareness of international audiences about Russian art of that period by supporting exhibition projects, as well as through art loans to Russian and foreign museums and galleries. An important area of activities of the Foundation is publication of artist monographs and catalogues, as part of an independent publishing project. Over the years, the Foundation notably organized the international exhibition project ‘Viktor Popkov. The Genius of the Russian Soul’ (Moscow-Venice-London), the first-ever exhibition of Russian art in the Middle East in Abu Dhabi, and the exhibition ‘The Legacy of WW II in Russian Art’ in London. A permanent exhibition of Russian art from the collection of the Art Russe Foundation within the Beaulieu Museum complex (Hampshire) is the first-ever permanent exhibition of Russian Art in the United Kingdom.
Alexei Teneta (September 1, 1899 - July 5, 1972) was a Soviet sculptor and graphic artist. Honoured Artist of the RSFSR (1969), Teneta worked in easel, monumental and decorative sculpture.
Born in the village of Shepiorno near Warsaw, Alexei Teneta later moved with his family to Moscow. Following graduation from the Zamoskvoretsk Art School, in 1921-1925 he continued his studies at the VKHUTEMAS Higher Art and Technical Studios, under B. Korolev and A. Lavinski. In 1924-1930, he worked as a teacher at VKHUTEMAS.
Alexei Teneta created his first monuments during his studies. Among the best-known works of the sculptor are The Builder statue for Gateway 5 of the Moscow-Volga Canal, The Sportsman sculpture for the Cherkizovo Stadium, The Metallurgist sculpture in Makeyevka, the Donbass, The Family composition for a residential complex on Tverskaya Street (formerly - Gorky Street) in Moscow, bas-reliefs for the facade of the Tver Regional Drama Theatre, sculptures for a residential high-rise on Kotelnicheskaya Embankment in Moscow, and the project of the monument to the Stakhanovite movement for the exhibition ‘The Industry of Socialism’ (the central figure of the miner from the composition was exhibited at the 1939 New York World’s Fair).
The works of Alexei Tenet can be found in the State Tretyakov Gallery, the Russian Museum, regional museums of Russia and private collections.
Ekaterina Shubnyakova is a member of the Sculpture Section of the Moscow Union of Artists, sculptor and sculpture restorer. In 1989, she graduated from the Painting and Pedagogical Department of the MAHu Moscow Academic Art School. In 1998, she completed her studies at the Sculpture Department of the Surikov Art College in Moscow. She trained at the Academy of Arts in Stuttgart (Germany), as well as in the creative workshop at the Russian Academy of Arts, under the Academician V. Tsigal. Ekaterina Shubnyakova has participated in numerous exhibitions since 1994. Since 1998, she is a member of the Moscow Union of Artists. In 2004, Shubnyakova was awarded the Silver Medal of the Russian Academy of Arts for a series of creative works. She lives and works in Moscow. She is a successful artist working in the genres of portrait, animal painting, decorative sculpture and medal art. Since 2000, she has also worked as a sculptor-restorer. Works by Ekaterina Shubnyakova can be found in private collections in Russia, Great Britain, France, Belgium and the USA.
Peoples’ Friendship Fountain - Curious Facts
The female statues in the composition of the fountain symbolize 16 republics that were constituents of the USSR in 1954. In 1956, the Karelo-Finnish SSR was reorganised into the Autonomous Republic of Karelia within the RSFSR, but the composition of the fountain remained unchanged.
Initially named The Main Fountain, the fountain was known as The Golden Sheaf in 1953-1954, before receiving its definitive name The Peoples’ Friendship Fountain in August 1954. Originally the Kolkhoznaya Square, the square where the fountain stands was later renamed the People's Friendship Square.
The order of the sculptures of collective farmers was adopted from the USSR Coat of Arms, which, in turn, was based on the list of republics enshrined in the USSR Constitution as amended on February 25, 1947. The constituent republics were ranked by population (RSFSR, Ukrainian SSR, Byelorussian SSR, Uzbek SSR, Kazakh SSR, etc.).
The fountain is oval in shape, its pool - an elongated octagon. The dimensions are 81 m along the major axis and 56 m and along the small axis. The length along the perimeter is 170 meters. Total area: 3,723 sq. m.
Crops used in the sculptures’ design: Belarus – apple tree and flax; Russia - wheat; Ukraine - flowers, wheat, vine and sunflower; Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan – cotton plant; Armenia and Georgia - vine; Kazakhstan - wheat; Karelia - flowers and a small coniferous tree; Kyrgyzstan - flowers; Latvia - rye; Lithuania - flowers, flax, barley and oak; Moldova - corn and vine; Estonia - oak and a pine twig.