Start: Tretyakovskaya Metro (orange line)End: Trubnaya Metro (light green line) Distance: about 7km Love him or hate him, you can’t ignore him. The artist Zurab Tsereteli, President of the Russian Academy of Arts, has helped make modern Moscow what it is and his controversial statue of Peter the Great dominates the riverside skyline. To celebrate his seventy fifth birthday, the Tretyakov Gallery has brought one hundred works by Tsereteli from Paris. Using this exhibition as a starting point, here is a route that passes close to several monuments so that you can make up your own mind. You don’t have to be a fan to enjoy this walk: it is also a perfect summertime city stroll through parks and gardens, squares and boulevards. As well as the Tsereteli monuments, you pass photogenic viewpoints, art galleries and at least eight different picturesque fountains.
The first fountain is less than two hundred metres from Tretyakovskaya Metro Station. Crossing over the main road, walk along Bolshoi Tolmachevsky Pereulok and turn right past the three watery gold picture frames. This is the first of many thematic fountains, taking its cue from the Tretyakov Gallery (open 10-6, Tues-Sun) round the corner in Lavrushinsky Pereulok. The Tsereteli exhibition is on the third floor of the “Engineer’s house” annexe (1), just before the main gallery. The paintings, sculptures and enamel work on show give a good introduction to Tsereteli’s work. There is no denying that he is colourful and prolific and is still going strong. The entrance fee of 250/120 roubles for foreigners/Russians also entitles you to visit the exhibition on the second floor.
Going on past the main gallery, cross over the pedestrian bridge at the end of the road to reach a long island in the Moscow River. The bridge, which is decorated with metal trees full of ‘love padlocks’, is named after Yuri Luzhkov, mayor of Moscow and major supporter of Tsereteli. To the right there is a sculptural ensemble called “Children are victims of the vices of Adults”, the kind of heavy-handed allegory favoured in modern monuments. Walk back towards the fountain at the far end of the garden and then turn right along the main road until you come to the traffic lights where you can cross, via an underpass. Skirt around the enormous and ominous grey “House on the embankment”. Turn left past a delightful old manor house and church, up the steps onto another pedestrian bridge and right towards the enormous Christ the Saviour Cathedral. If you want to get an even closer look at Peter the Great (2), you can detour to the end of the island. The Christ the Saviour Cathedral (3), the world’s tallest Eastern Orthodox Church, continues Tsereteli’s association with giant projects. The original cathedral was demolished by the Soviets and replaced by a giant outdoor swimming pool. Tsereteli took over as head of the team who rebuilt the cathedral in the last years of the twentieth century. His controversial innovations included replacing the original marble reliefs with modern versions in bronze. To get a sense of the scale of the place, go inside and look up into the central dome. The ‘holy spirit’ dove floating just under God’s beard looks small from the ground. Its wingspan is actually six metres. You can detour left along Prechistenka to visit Tsereteli’s gallery (4) and the pricey café filled with brightly coloured enamels.
Otherwise, turn right along Ulitsa Volkhonka, past the Pushkin Museum. At the end of the road, you reach another fancy single-artist gallery. This one is devoted to the sycophantic portraiture of Alexander Shilov, a painter who has also enjoyed the patronage of Luzhkov despite controversy. Cross over next to the gallery and go on along Mokhovaya Ulitsa, passing the palatial Pashkov House and the Lenin library. Go straight ahead down the steps leading to the Biblioteka Imeni Lenina Metro, turn right along the tunnel, down a second flight of steps and exit to the left just before a third flight. This should bring you up in front of the Manezh, once a nineteenth century parade ground, now the Central Exhibition Hall. Rebuilt and expanded after a fire in 2004, the only reminder now of the horse guards, who used to ride there, is Tsereteli’s popular bronze horse fountain (5). Beyond the horses, Tsereteli’s redesign of Manezhnaya Ploschad gets a little bit disney. Fairy tale characters, cascades, bridges and balconies are piled around a mosaic-floored pond, recalling the underground Neglinaya River. Okhotny Ryad shopping mall also bears the unmistakable imprint of the king of kitsch: marble, gold, Egyptian motifs and climbing bronze flowers are topped off above ground by St George on a dome. St George, patron saint of Moscow, is a favourite motif. Go on across Ploschad Revolutsii, left past the statue of Karl Marx and under the main road into Teatralnaya Ploschad, keeping to the right of the Bolshoi Theatre. At the far end of Ulitsa Petrovka, you come to yet another gallery that celebrates Zurab Tsereteli, the Moscow Museum of Modern Art (6). The courtyard (to which entry is free) is crammed with familiar mosaics and bronzes, including a statue of Luzhkov as a janitor, cleaning up the city. There is also another funkily-decorated café/bar. Turn right along Petrovsky Boulevard to Trubnaya Metro with another St George outside on a pillar. Before you go down into the station, go on a little way along Tsvetnoi Boulevard to see a group of bronze clowns (7) and fountains, celebrating the old (Nikulin) circus, to the left. You will have seen enough by now to know who designed them. Similarly, the unashamedly populist decoration of Trubnaya metro station, opened in 2007, depicting Moscow and the towns of the golden ring in back-lit stained glass mosaic, is classic Tsereteli and draws admirers and detractors in equal measure. Landmark of the Week – The Peter the Great Monument (2), commissioned by Luzhkov in 1998. Legend has it that this was originally a monument to Columbus, which was rejected by the Americans, given a slightly different face and converted into the ‘father of the Russian navy’. At 94 metres, Peter is the sixth tallest statue on the planet and was voted tenth ugliest construction in the world by ‘Virtual Tourist’ website last year.