After I finished a lecture on post-industrial cities in St. Petersburg, Russia, a woman named Albina Motor came up to me and said, “I want to extend and invitation to show you something that is exactly like what you were talking about.” With only a limited time in the city, I took a big chance and spent my afternoon visiting with her at the Street Art Museum, which turned out to be an amazingly cool place you should check out if you are ever there. I’d rate it as one of the best contemporary art venues I’ve ever been to. It also gave me a guilt-free way to enjoy street art, as I personally don’t approve of putting art on other people’s property without permission.
In any case, I came back and wrote an article about this, which is now online at the Guardian. Here’s an excerpt:
So how do you refresh an industrial district in the middle ring of this classical city? With street art, of course. The Street Art Museum engages with both functioning industry and the world of art – for which the city is already well-known. Even the museum’s logo – a spray can styled as a classic architectural column – playfully draws on the city’s high-culture reputation. But this a different kind of art for a different kind of district, one that is drawing tourists and international attention to the kind of urban zone that seldom sees much of either.
It was the factory owner himself, Dmitry Zaitsev, who created the museum, and his son Andrey is the museum’s director. Because it’s in a factory, a good deal of the “permanent collection” comprises murals overlooking active factory floors full of workers, such as God at Work by Roman Kreemos or Supreme (in homage to suprematism) by Petro.
“The original idea was to make this place cosy for working,” says Motor, highlighting the industrial logic behind these works, which are normally off-limits to museum-goers and require special advance arrangements to see. The relationship between factory and museum goes the other way, too: the chairs in the museum cafe were made from the factory’s products and assembled by its workers.
Click through to read the whole thing.
I put a number of photos of the Street Art Museum in a Flickr album if you want to check them out. Here are some more samples.
Oops – did I do that? I think I did.