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Anna Lengle

It is common to consider the old and the new in terms of how they meet. But sometimes their meeting is so close that one can easily recognize the old in the new. Such a metamorphosis took place in Moscow at the end of May, when the State Tretyakov Gallery at Krymsky Val underwent an art-reconstruction by the artist Aleksander Konstantinov. The project was unveiled at the culmination of the museum’s 150th anniversary celebration. The artist «restored» to the gallery’s facades the appearance of its old historic building in Lavrushinsky Lane by recreating its image in the large-scale installation «Wandering Walls».

Six large pieces repeating fragments of the walls of the old gallery were set out next to the entrance, in the foyer, and in the courtyard of the new building, attracting attention from a distance with their bold pattern of colored tape. The dialogue between old and new is usually observed in the way contemporary architecture and art bravely contrast with their older surrounding contexts. In this case, however, a futuristic construction with a reference to the past, created by non-architectural means, emerges against the background of a contemporary ensemble. But this new perspective reveals the value of heritage, of searching for the harmony of its connection with a changing environment.

Konstantinov is well known to many as a graphic artist. Having learned the visual language of that art, he transfers its principles to a new surface. Using an unusual material, adhesive tape, he shows that it can also be used to draw, by using stripes of tape as strokes or turning them into spots. But the novelty of Konstantinov’s monumental graphics is not so much its technical means, but rather its denial of paper. Freed from paper, drawing bursts into new spaces and conforms, not to the laws of easel art, but to the laws of real landscapes and townscapes.

All of Konstantinov’s installations impress with their monumentality and their ideas. The wandering walls are a symbol of uncertainty. By embodying vagueness and disturbance, the blocks increase the dissemination of such sensations, giving birth to a sense of chaos hypertrophied to the scale of a town. Parts of the installation lean against columns and walls, and stand apart from one another, as if the old architecture had just fallen into pieces moments ago. And there are plentiful examples of such a situation in the vicinity. If one looks over the horizon, goes around the building of the State Tretyakov Gallery, hustle at the front entrance of which does not promise much pleasure from arts, one can see the chaos of other territories.

Konstantinov’s art is topical; one of the qualities characteristic of his installations is interactivity. While his work is exhibited, one cannot relate to it as past; its life goes on as long as interaction with the viewer exists. Those huge spacial sketches become the reality, the up-to-the-minute experience of the person standing nearby. Each of the parts of the installation has verso and recto, the prototypes for which are the drawing of the facades of the old Tretiakov Gallery building done by the artist Victor Vasnetsov, and 18 th-century French and Italian engravings depicting architectural sections. By literally going through the wall, the viewer finds himself in an ephemeral space of an engraving from a different time and country. The state of uncertainty whether one is inside or outside remains, as the walls exist only in fragments. Simultaneously, the slope of multi-ton construction engenders a feeling of danger. According to the author, he deliberately changed the proportions of doors and windows by diminishing or increasing them: «I wanted to evoke n the viewer an unclear sensation of discomfort, provoking to revise the surrounding physical world as well as his or her own scale, his or her place and consequence, like Alice in Through the Looking-Glass». Pretending to be walls of real buildings, the installation plays architecture with the passers-by; it suggests questions full of irony that do not imply unambiguous answers.

Usually, in a metamorphosis from old to new, the connection between the past and the present is metaphoric. Art is one of the few ways to implement this connection so that it can be tangibly felt, proving the proposition that heritage is an inexhaustible source of inspiration that requires special attention and consideration.

Location: State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia.

Year: 2006


an installation created at the request of the State Tretyakov Gallery in association with 150th anniversary of the Tretyakov Gallery.

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