Contemporary Kazakhstan Art Exhibition in Strasbourg Opens New Facets of Culture

ASTANA – The Life is a Legend exhibition at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MAMCS) in Strasbourg is bringing the work of contemporary Kazakh artists to an international audience. The exhibition, which opened on Dec. 5, is presented by the Eurasian Cultural Alliance and the Apollonia Association and will showcase artists largely unknown outside of Kazakhstan.

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“I think that the words we have heard most since the exhibition opened are ‘What a discovery!’,” Estelle Pietrzyk, director of the MAMCS and curator of the exhibition, told The Astana Times in a written interview on Feb. 16. “Most of the artists selected for the show are unknown for our visitors and they are strongly enthusiastic for this art that doesn’t have well established comment on it. Also, what is most appreciated is how diverse these artistic approaches are: sculpture, painting, photography, 3D, art video … and how powerful they are. This is the kind of exhibition that leaves you with a strong after-image.”

The exhibition organisers spent several months preparing a research journey to Kazakhstan, said Dimitri Konstantinidis, director of Apollonia, collecting information, linking contacts and different sources, and were supported by the Almaty Akimat (city administration) and Strasbourg municipality.

The project aspires to show the development of contemporary art in Kazakhstan over the last two decades and focuses on the idea of identity through the prism of history, Konstantinidis said.

The exhibition features work by Said Atabekov, Smail Bayaliyev, Syrlybek Bekbotayev, Bakhyt Bubikhanova, Zoya Falkova, Galym Madanov, Yerbossyn Meldibekov, Almagul Menlibayeva, Ekaterina Nikonorova, Arystanbek Shalbayev, Oksana Shatalova, Georgy Tryakhin-Bukharov, Alexander Yugai, Elena Vorobiyeva and Viktor Vorobiyev and ZITABL (Zitta Sultanbayeva and Ablikim Akmullayev).

“I think that the Kazakh scene is definitively characterised by a strong vitality, a mix of age old-stories that makes us curious about what we don’t know on the one hand, and of very real, accurate questions (freedom of speech, impoverishment, political issues) on the other hand,” Pietrzyk said. And while Kazakh contemporary artists may be relatively unknown today, she thinks it is likely that the country, which is developing so quickly, will soon find a way to promote its art and artists.

“I would say that the entire room devoted to Yugai’s work is a revelation: his clever and sensitive way of dealing with memory makes his approach very special. Of course, most of the visitors are immediately attracted to the Vorobiyevs’ ‘Bazaar,’ which is a physical experience: they spend a lot of time reading the texts and identifying the objects,” Pietrzyk said.

The e.cite project, which promotes cultural exchanges, has gathered the unique aspects of Kazakh culture and brought them to Strasbourg annually since 2008.

In addition to the Life is a Legend exhibition, an exhibition of young photographers will be held, two Kazakh films and a selection of video works to be screened and other works will be shown in the city.

The Life is a Legend exhibition will close on March 8.

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