Despite its young age, St. Petersburg harbors many layers of history and culture. Old facades hide new cultural developments as the locals shift between established traditions and current trends, changing the city's character along the way.
One can compare St. Petersburg to Venice for its combination of majestic classical architecture and rundown buildings, size of thought and scarcity of action. The Russian city is full of contrast.
On one side there are many heavyweight traditional institutions. St. Petersburg's main cultural attraction, The Hermitage, houses over 3 million items, including the largest collection of paintings in the world.
Being one of the largest and oldest museums on the planet, the museum is the city's main tourist attraction.
Add countless bridges, canals, elegant architecture, a turbulent history and all the artists who have created something in St. Petersburg, and you have an artistic atmosphere in Europe's 3rd largest city. But that's all a legacy of the past. Like any great city, St. Petersburg hasn't stopped developing and the city is looking into the future.
The old rebellious spirit survives
St. Petersburg had an avant-garde cultural underground in the 1980's and 1990's, which always opposed to the authoritarian regime. Rebellion is deep in the city's DNA. This rebellious spirit also shows in the contemporary art scene, where artists are very bold in their forms of expression.
Where do the old and new meet in St. Petersburg ? what are the places of cultural importance today ? Highlights for a contemporary cultural experience.
Erarta contemporary art in the historic city
In a city teeming with history, culture and museums, opening a new grand museum for contemporary art might seem like a risky plan. But Erarta's opening in 2010 proved that such an institution was necessary.
Erarta is the biggest project in Russian contemporary art, a must-see attraction for gaining an insight into modern Russia.
Its 10,000 m2 building brings under one roof the Erarta Museum - the largest private museum in Russia, with 2,300 works by more than 250 artists from various regions of the country - and a commercial art gallery.
The museum is in a late Stalinist Classicist building fr0m 1951 which served as headquarters of the Communist Party. The last tenant was the Synthetic Rubber Research Institute of the USSR.
A complete renovation erased any traces of the edifice's communist past. The museum looks on par with any similar international institution, with white walls, good lightning, wide staircases, video installations and an elegant café.
Erarta driving forces
The person behind Erarta is Marina Varvarina, a low-profile businesswoman who built its collection from visits to artists' studios over the last 20 years. One of the museum's goals is to release contemporary Russian art from the grips of the Moscow art scene and give a voice to artists from all corners of the giant country.
Curators update Erarta's collection by traveling across Russia to find unknown future stars and track down old favorites from all periods and streams of the Russian contemporary art movement.
Another aim is to get the public to start appreciating contemporary art.
Hence, the museum has many "artainment" additions that range from theater performances, concerts and lectures to shopping and eating venues. Interactive displays and installations try to catch visitors' attention, while "U-spaces" house themed installations such as a replica of a country log cabin or of a Soviet kommunalka apartment.
|Address||Lin. Vasilievskogo Ostrova 2, St Petersburg, Leningrad Oblast, Russia|
A new edition to St Petersburg's cultural landscape, the Lumiere Hall is seeking to reinvent the way that we see paintings and art in general.
During your visit to this museum and creative space, you will find yourself lost in a labyrinth of light and immersed in a sea of sound.
The Lumiere Hall is a perfect example of how art can rejuvenate disused buildings and even whole neighborhoods. Take the largest natural gas reservoir of the 19th century, with its 27 meter high ceiling and 1,200 m2 area on the edge of central St Petersburg.
This building had long been abandoned, but has now been turned into a projection museum designed to show art in a different way.
Van Gogh in full HD
For example, an art by exhibition by Vincent van Gogh doesn't contain a single painting. All the artworks by the great master are presented through 30 digital screens and more than 40 projectors.
The images are transmitted in 3D animation in full HD, and the surrounding sound of 20 kV makes your heart release an extra beat.
This way of displaying great masterpieces lets locals experience world-class art without traveling to Amsterdam, Madrid or London. Moreover, the colors on display are so vivid and rich that it seems as if the characters in the paintings are about to descend from the screens.
After walking through such an exhibition, visitors can join a special workshop, where those who feel inspired can create their own masterpiece guided by talented artists.
|Address||Neberezhnaya Obvodnogo Kanala 74, St. Petersburg|
LabirintUm Science Museum
The interactive museum of entertaining science «LabirintUm» in St. Petersburg is open for curious visitors of any age.
The museum exposition is an interactive space filled with amazing mechanisms and technical elements, demonstrating physical, chemical and biological laws.
There are more than 170 exhibits on two areas of the museum. All can be activated by one's own hands, following a detailed instruction.
«LabirintUm» guests will be acquainted with outstanding inventions, such as Alexeyev's needle screen, amazing pipe organ and the magic cradle of Newton, get out of the intricate mirror labyrinth, visit the unusual exposition "The Man in numbers" and much more.
Would you like to become a part of an electrical chain? Light a fire in the palm of your hand? Touch the lightning? There is nothing impossible for «LabirintUm» guests!
The «LabirintUm» is located within walking distance from the Petrogradskaya metro station and the famous sights of St. Petersburg: the Peter and Paul Fortress, the Russian Museum, the Church of the Savior on the Blood, the Leningrad Zoo, the Cathedral Mosque, the Museum of Political History of Russia, the Artillery Museum and others.
The second «LabirintUm» is in the south of St. Petersburg in the shopping and entertainment complex «Piter Raduga». There is a free bus running from the metro station «Park Pobedy» to the shopping and entertainment complex «Piter Raduga» every 10-15 minutes.
Angleterre Hotel in St Petersburg
One of the first hotels in St Petersburg, the Angleterre has been a center of cultural activities since it first opened its doors in the 19th century. During the 1920's, poets frequented the hotel often.
Today it remains a cultural institution as much as a hotel, housing the city's leading art house cinema and an art gallery. It's also a perfect setting for people-watching.
Built on St Isaac's Square, the Angleterre Hotel neighbors some of the city's main attractions, These include St Isaac's Cathedral, whose golden dome dominates the city skyline. The cathedral's interior is lavishly decorated with marble and mosaic tiles, and you can climb its 43 meter colonnade for breathtaking views.
Over the years, the Angleterre Hotel has attracted many celebrated guests. American writer John Reed, the author of Ten Days that Shock the World (the famous eyewitness account of the Russian Revolution), stayed there when the Bolsheviks seized power in 1917.
Another well-known guest was Sergei Yesenin, a celebrated Russian poet. He often enjoyed the hotel's hospitality until 1925, when he allegedly committed suicide in one of the rooms by hanging himself.
|Address||Malaya Morskaya ul., 24, St Petersburg|