Popular Russian art on show at Benaki Museum

Timed to coincide with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s official three-day visit to Greece, the Benaki Museum in Athens is holding an exhibition titled Christianity in the Works of Russian Popular Artists. The event, which is being organized by Greece’s Culture Ministry, the Benaki Museum, and the Popular Arts of Russia Association, comes as the first indication of plans to increase bilateral cultural activity between Greece and Russia. The exhibition, which was opened yesterday by Russia’s vice premier, Valentina Matvienko, will run until December 12. The items on show represent popular art produced at various centers and belonging to schools of thought with long traditions. Included are woodcarvings of the Khokhloma and Gorodets traditions, Gzhel porcelains, as well as gold-plated tapestries. The Benaki Museum’s head curator, Angelos Delivorias, told a press conference that the exhibition’s title could be misconstrued. The material on show in Athens does not refer to the perception of Orthodoxy through the artistic tendencies, psychology and experiences of the Russian people, Delivorias said. As a rule, they are contemporary works. I would hope that the Greek visitor makes his or her own comparisons, he added, possibly hinting at the equivalent low-quality Greek products flooding the street markets in central Athens’s Plaka district. Commenting on Putin’s historic visit to Greece, the first by a Russian president, Delivorias said that the public could have expected something more major. Many will wonder why a historic visit such as President Putin’s has not been marked by a grander exhibition, an exhibition of treasures from large Russian museums, for example, Delivorias said. The, probably scientific, response which I would make is that the Russians desired to depict what Greeks and Russians had in common. At the press conference, the head curator also raised a second question on how traditions are perceived by the people, but left it unanswered. He did, however, propose that it formed the theme for a prospective conference. The CD-ROM is directed by Giorgos Papaconstantinou, a specialist in documentaries and multimedia despite his original training in architecture, who has also directed another CD-ROM, Athens in the Age of Pericles.