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TRETIAKOV GALLERY FOUNDATION CHARITY BALLDecember is a festive month in New York. Charity Balls, fund-raising dinners, corporate events and a slew of private parties descend upon the city. Even if you are a person with the means to pay the hefty attendance fees, you will not be able to visit most of them. But RULIST would like to acknowledge some of the worthwhile parties that draw attention to the causes of Russian culture, one of them being the benefit ball for the Tretiakov Gallery Foundation.



TRETIAKOV GALLERY FOUNDATION CHARITY BALL

December is a festive month in New York. Charity Balls, fund-raising dinners, corporate events and a slew of private parties descend upon the city. Even if you are a person with the means to pay the hefty attendance fees, you will not be able to visit most of them. But RULIST would like to acknowledge some of the worthwhile parties that draw attention to the causes of Russian culture, one of them being the benefit ball for the Tretiakov Gallery Foundation.

The man responsible for the establishing and nourishing The American Friends of Tretiakov Gallery Foundation, Alexander Gertzman, kindly agreed to give us an interview.

RULIST: Alexander, you are the President and Founder of the American Friends of the Tretyakov Gallery Foundation. What projects was the Foundation involved in since its inaugural in November 2002?

A.G: Its inauguration was hosted by The Russian Consulate General in New York with - as the New York Times reported - a ”white-rose-and-candlelight-dinner that featured James Billington, the librarian of Congress and a scholar of Russian culture, Vladimir Feltsman the Russian-born pianist who played Rachmaninoff, and Donald Kendall, the former chief executive of PepsiCo Inc. and a pioneer of American-Soviet trade. President Mikhail Gorbachev and his Foundation for the Development of Democracy and World Peace also assisted with the launch.”

Several art gifts were presented to the permanent collection of the Tretyakov Gallery - artworks by Komar and Melamid, Grisha Bruskin, and RImma Gerlovina and Valeriy Gerlovin. A retrospective of the prominent Russian-American artist Natalya Nesterova ”Reflections of Time Past” was brought to the Tretyakov Gallery last winter in collaboration with the International Foundation of Russian and Eastern European Art (INTART) as part of Ms. Nesterova’s five world’s museums traveling exhibition.

RULIST: Every year you put on a big charity fundraiser ball where there is a great list of talented entertainers and artists that take part in the event.

A.G: In November of 2005 was our first Annual Tretyakov Ball after the Inaugural Gala. The American post-9/11 economy was not very encouraging for organizing fundraisers until this year. An incredible artistic group supported this Ball: Thomas Krense, Director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation; Donatella Versace of Versace; George Michael, Platinum Recording Artist; Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Belotserkovsky, Principal Dancers of the American Ballet Theater; Vassily Gerello, Soloist of the Metropolitan Opera and Bolshoi Theater; Patty LaBelle, Grammy Award Winning Artists and Hollywood walk of Fame; Natalya Nesterova, Academician, Triumph Award Winner; Oksana Baiul, Olympic Champion Figure Skater; Chita Rivera, Tony Award Winning Artist; Jay Strongwater, Designer for the Jay Strongwater company; Constantine Orbelian, Director of Moscow Chamber Orchestra; Barry Weissler, Tony Award Winning Broadway Producer, Lynda Baquero, Anchor of NBC4 News; and the jazzman Valery Ponomarev.

RULIST: How long and how many people do it take to prepare an annual Fundraising event like yours?

A.G: Basically it takes about a year to prepare an event like our Ball, with a couple of people on permanent staff. We made it in two and a half months – which is unheard of, having a benefit committee of 20 great individuals, lead by Dr. Eda Ellis, Ella Krasner with the most distinguished Natalya Kasyanova, Bella Sapir, Nina Bouis, Olessia Sibiriakova, and Inga Rubinstein, with none of the Committee members on the permanent staff of the Foundation. It was a great effort that required a huge amount of work to be done.

RULIST: What is the main goal of this charity?

A.G: The foundation will sponsor and promote educational projects designed to introduce Americans to the historic and contemporary treasures at the Tretyakov Gallery, as well as to the multiplicity of Russian art and culture in general. The introduction of this gateway to the Russian art-world offers a remarkable insight into the artistic accomplishments of the once sovereign empire, intended both to inspire fresh perspectives and nurture greater understanding. Support for the arts is critical in preserving the presence and continuity of both individual cultures and interpretation of the landscapes that mirror our personal lives. So with its inauguration a resounding success, and a as committed advocate of Russian art, The American Friends of The Tretyakov Gallery is launching an international campaign in our effort to realize and promote cultural exchange and preserve the heritage and tradition of past accomplishments while fostering creative expression of the present.

This is undoubtedly an ideal platform for the ever-widening socio-political parameters of our global environment and would present an ideal opportunity to connect with the Russian and international community in celebration of cultural pluralism.

RULIST: I know that you are an architect. Do you have time to practice architecture being so busy with the Foundation work and what projects do you take part in.

A.G: After moving to the United States in 1992, I have dedicated my life to the arts, acting as an independent curator and a private art dealer, and have completely abandoned my architectural career. I founded and preside over the International Foundation of Russian and Eastern European Art (INTART), yet since 1993 have curated more than 40 traveling museum exhibitions of Russian art throughout the United States, Europe, and Russia. These include The State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg, the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C, the Museum of Modern Art in Vienna, Austria, Art Museum of the Yeshiva University in New York, the Venice Biennale (with Komar and Melamid), the Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art in Aachen, Germany, and Museum of Modern Art in Verona, Italy.

I am frequently called upon as a consultant for major museums and corporations in the United States, Europe and Russia on contemporary Russian art, moderate symposia and lectured on Russian art of the 20th century at American museums, private clubs, and universities. I widely contribute to museum catalogues, cultural magazines and periodicals, and often provide art commentaries on American and Russian television and radio programs. I have been interviewed multiple times by the New York Times, New Yorker, New York magazine, Associated Press, ITAR-TASS, Bloomberg News, Washington Post, Moscow Times, Artforum, Flash Art, Baltimore Sun, New York Newsday, New York Daily News, Time Out, and Moscow, New York, St. Petersburg and Washington, D.C. major TV and radio Channels.

RULIST: If you don’t mind, please tell our readers a little bit about your background. Where you grew up, what is the background of your family, how your interest in art and architecture developed?

A.G: I was born in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine to the family of a doctor and civil engineer, where arts, music and literature were part of everyday life. I graduated from the art school, musical school, which lead me to the Architectural Academy (which I graduated from with honors), had taken a post-graduate course at the Moscow Central Research Institute of History of Architecture, and my diploma project won a Silver Medal at the All-Soviet Union Competition. I had been a free-lance art critic for newspapers and magazines for years, and as well had lectured in arts, thus ”switching” in New York completely towards the arts was not really a big stretch for me.

RULIST: This year in NY was a tremendous moment for revival of interest in Russian arts with the opening of Guggenheim Show Russia! and the parallel projects by such curators as Lena Sorokina and Moscow gallerist Marat Gellman with Russia2. What do you think can be done to keep the Russian momentum going and keep up interest in the US towards Russian Art?

A.G: The year was amazing indeed, starting with the Sotheby’s auction in New York in April that has given the highest results in Russian art ever, And presentation of contemporary art on the highest international level with Natalya Nesterova and Komar & Melamid reaching their major records. In addition to the curatorial projects you had mentioned, I also curated, parallel to the Guggenheim’s RUSSIA! two quite large exhibitions: a 24-artists exhibit, REMEMBRANCE: Russian Post-Modern Nostalgia, at the Art Gallery of the Lafayette College in Pennsylvania (this exhibit has been traveling in the United States for the last 2 years and has included many of the artists who are currently shown at the Guggenheim museum as well as several young artists), and the Retrospective of Natalya Nesterova, Reflections of Time Past (traveling through 5 World’s museums) that had been shown at the National Museum of Women in the Arts and the Fondo Del Sol Museum in Washington, D.C. at the time of the Guggenheim’s show. Not to mention the exhibition of works by such major contemporary Russian artists as Komar and Melamid, Bruskin, Sokov, The Gerlovins, and Nesterova I had put together for the First Annual Tretyakov Ball I had organized in New York in November via the American Friends of The Tretyakov Gallery foundation, which received major publicity in the social and art worlds. I believe that the only way to keep the moment and interest going is to have more engaging exhibitions and art projects in American museums and galleries, and to keep the mediocrity out of the main trends, thus presenting Russian art as one of the major world’s movements.

Interview with Alexander Gertzman conducted on behalf of RULIST by Olga Chemokhud Doty.




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