Moscow sculptors promise to starve until they get their House back

02-02-2008

Six representatives of “The Union of Moscow Sculptors” went on hunger-strike in attempt to defend the Moscow House of Sculptor they were going to be deprived of by the officials.  According to the report of “Vechernyaa Moskva” Ivan Kazansky, Alexander Tsigal, Vladislav Len, Vladimir Buinachev, Oleg Kovrigin, Vladimir Sobolev have been inside the building for the fifth day, the participants of the strike are staying in a room on the second floor and refuse to eat.

Meanwhile two more famous artists joined the protesters on Sunday – Sergey Tsigal and Andrey Bilzho. According to the chairman of the Moscow Union of Artists Ivan Kazansky, Tsigal and Bilzho are ready to support their colleagues within several days, hoping it will be enough to settle down the conflict. 

"We are not going to leave and stop starving until they consider the order of the Russian government according to which the building was given to “The International Fund of Humanitarian Cooperation”, - stated Kazansky – “All attempts to find reasons for taking the House of Sculptor conceal a nasty intention to capture a building in the center of Moscow that would not require any investment”.

Other participants of the hunger-strike share the opinion of Kazansky. Now they are appealing to many government agencies. “We suppose, that the Federal Agency of Culture and Cinematography, entrusted to Mikhail Shvydkoy, serves to protect interests of people in art and creative unions, provide all possible support to cultural centers”, - said academician of the Russian Academy of Arts Alexander Tsigal.  

"I join this strike, because my friends are starving», - as NEWSru Israel quotes Sergey Tsigal, who has recently joined the protesting sculptors – “It is probably the only form of protest that could be heard by the authorities”.

The conflict around the Moscow House of Sculptor – a mansion of the XVIII century on Spasonalivsky lane – blazed up this year, in January. The first floor was partially captured by the employers of the private security company then. Later it was found out that the building, that used to belong to a poet Peter Vyazemsky, was about to be seized by The International Fund of Humanitarian Cooperation of the CIS states, whose co-chairman was the head of “Rosculture” Mikhail Shvydkoy.

The Moscow House of Sculpture is one of the federal monuments of history and culture. Over thirty years ago a public organization of Moscow sculptors managed to revoke the decision to demolish this building by proving its cultural value. In 1974 sculptors undertook a commitment to restore the dilapidated house. In 1984 the restoration works were finished and the organization of Moscow sculptors made a lease contract for 49 years. In 1996 the ownership was transferred to the Union of Moscow Sculptors.

From the legal angle, the sculptors can be evicted only by bailiffs, if the lease contract is declared to be invalid by the court. Now the protesters are negotiating with assistant of Speaker of the Federation Council Sergey Mironov and First Vice-Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, they have also sent letters to the Public Chamber. On February 11 a rally for protection of the Moscow House of Sculptor was held on Slavyanskaya Square. Over 150 people came to support the protest, most of them are representatives of the Russian Academy of Arts, famous sculptors and artists. Among all others a chairman of the committee of culture and tourism of the State Duma Nikolay Gubenko delivered his speech at the rally. Like other protesters, one more time he addressed the officials with a request to give the sculptors their building back.

The protesters informed that they did not have a single response from the state officials to their requests concerning the House of Sculptor. The Ministry of Culture, according to them, tries to keep aloof from this story. The sculptors told they were getting only useless formal replies from the different departments of Moscow they had addressed to.

Actors came to support the protectors of the House of Sculptor too, because they had recently lost their own House of Actor under similar circumstances. However, they complained that their numerous actions and rallies, an open letter to president Putin and even requests of the presidential candidate Dmitry Medvedev did not help them to defend the House of Actor.

In his turn, press secretary of Mikhail Shvydkoy, Natalia Uvarova, earlier stated: “It is not us who deprive the sculptors of their building, but the Federal Property Management Agency”. “We were trying to support them, but they are not under the control of RosCulture, so we are helpless”, - said the press secretary. Meanwhile the Federal Property Management Agency refused to explain the situation. According to the information of “Kommersant” newspaper, half of all premises of the Moscow House of Sculptor, just like of the House of Actor, are rented out to different commercial companies.

Alexander Tsigal: “Our hunger-strike is a cry of despair. But, beyond that, it is a personal position of each of us, we find this situation disgusting. We absolutely disagree with it. And we do not know other ways to express our disagreement”.

“This building was not used only for creative work. It was used for administrative work as well, was occupied by the bureau of creative clubs. It was a place of meeting for exhibition committees, here new artists were accepted to the Moscow Regional Union of Artists. Perhaps, the entire artistic, sculptural, creative life was in this house. Artists were coming here to enter the Moscow Regional Union of Artists to be accepted. The doors of this house were always open. And nobody ever had to pay for showing their works or seeing them. In fact it was the last free artistic and professional site in Moscow – the last one! There are no any free sites remaining in the capital. This house had a special good artistic and professional atmosphere. And it still has it. And we want to hope it always will. We really do”.


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