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MOSCOW – City of Contrasts

Contributed with love and vodka by Marina Kurikhina –  Russian curator raised in London who has lived in Mexico City, Paris and New York. This avid traveller who worked for the Brazilian gallery Fortes D’Aloia & Gabriel, is  now focusing on her own independent practice and process lead art classes in Big Sur, California.

To start the day and sort out my life –

Cafe Bulka, it’s located in the old, central part of Moscow behind Chistye Prudi – a small lake and across from the Pokrovka Boulevard. I love the name Bulka, the word means bread in Russian but it has a colloquial charming twist to it which is impossible to translate to English. Cafe Bulka has a great internet, a sleek beautiful design, great coffee and fresh pastries that are baked daily in their kitchen. The menu is a mix of Russian and European style food, so everyone can find something they like.

Getting lost –

I love to walk to Red Square through Kitay-Gorod, which is one of the oldest parts of the city. You have to know the way not to get lost, but then again there’s nothing better than getting lost and finding new gems. The buildings around Red Square are incredible to see: these old structures erected along the tiny streets that haven’t been modified or expanded – like most buildings in Moscow. Every detail gives away a story from Russia’s hard history. Arguably there are more beautiful walks to take but I like this one because it doesn’t feel touristy.

A contemporary art dose – 

The new Tretyakov Gallery is a must. Head to the XX century building and walk across the empty rooms absorbing the treasures that have changed and influenced Art History. There’s masterpieces by GoncharovaKandinsky, early and late Malevich and many more. You can see great examples of rare Soviet constructivist ceramics and other utopian regalia. I also love to look at the old grannies who guard the deserted rooms. I often wonder what it is like to spend so many years in the company of  Malevich. Do they feel the spirit of the Revolution?

After Tretyakov, take a short walk through the park across the gallery to Dasha Zhukova’s Garage Centre for Contemporary Art where you’ll feel Moscow’s youthful and dynamic energy. Expect to spend quite a few hours there. 

When I need a seriously good meal – 

Lunch is great at Garage’s cafe. For a serious old school dinner – The Central House of Writers, located in an old historical mansion, this one is really a hidden gem.  Also when in Moscow never miss Cafe Pushkin, it’s open 24/7 and serves the best old fashion Russian food. Order a little selection includig pirojki to share as starters and then pelmeni for the main course. Don’t forget to have a kvas as an aperitif!) 

For an afternoon fix – 

My favorite cafe with view is Cafe Bosco, located directly on the Red Square. You can squeeze inside through the Marina Rinaldi store, just walk straight to the back, it’s the most exciting way to enter any place! It’s filled with perfect white table cloths and very elegant waiters, it has a Cirpiani Venice feel  with a Russian twist. Perfect for a coffee stop or an aperitif.

Favorite hidden not so hidden bookstore –

Garage book store is my favorite. I can spend hours there reading newly translated texts. I love reading books in Russian that I had to read in English for the first time as they didn’t exist in Russian. Thanks to Garage they have been translated and published.

The artists’ hood you don’t want to miss – 

A trip to WinZavod and a walk through the galleries is the best way to get an idea of the Russian art world. It used to be a wine bottle plant! I would also get in touch with a local artist, Gosha Ostretsov as he’s always happy to have people over to the studios he shares with other artists located in an old plastic factory. It’s a wonderful, independent community where you can meet young emerging and established artists. I know this all sounds vague but watch below to get a better idea. 

Treasure hunting in Moscow –

I like Gastronom No. 1, I go there the same way that I go to the museum. It is a beautiful recreation of an old luxurious soviet store. They play old songs and sell traditional Russian food as well as other western products. As you can see, this is my favorite way to be sucked by consumerism: through food and nostalgia!

The history of this place comes hand in hand with a dark history of what a luxury oasis was like during times of hardship and poverty of the Soviet Era.

My favorite thing about Moscow is –

Language! I love and thoroughly enjoy speaking Russian and hearing it everywhere on the streets. I love the hard and sometime intimidating façade. This is a culture that has its own very unique rules of engagement which I feel very privileged to understand, beyond the surface encounter.

I also like the subway with its old, stinky trains and stations that look like palaces.  I often stare at the marvelous chandeliers with tint of jealousy. They are so stunning!

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