Before you go to the new exhibition called “The Game” at the Anatoly Zverev Museum, there are a few things you should know. First, this small museum is dedicated to the artist Anatoly Zverev (1931-1986), one of the finest non-official Soviet artists of the post-war period. But the museum doesn’t have a permanent exhibition on display, and this week the museum won’t look anything like it looked a month ago. Several times a year the curators develop the concept for a new show and change absolutely everything about the space of the museum, from the shape of walls to the lighting, adding specially made films, music, installations and other audio-visual material to create the appropriate context for the works on display.
Second, it’s probably best if you stop thinking of it as a museum in the traditional sense of the word—a place where you go to look at art. Think of it as a theater. You get a ticket, take off your coat, and become part of the audience for a show that will play out while you sit on benches or stroll about the space.
Third, leave your seriousness at the door. This show is meant to be fun. It celebrates Anatoly Zverev and his circle of artists, who, despite the extraordinary difficulties of their lives, had a great time with their art, and in the long, happy, alcohol-fueled games of cards that they played together. After all, the show is called Игра (“The Game”), which in Russian also means “play.”
In the words of curator Polina Lobachyovskaya, who spent countless days and evenings with the artists, the show is designed to “change the angle of your perception of them.” And part of that shift is to appreciate the play of art.
“Life for them was a game —cards, checkers, mythological drinking bouts… It was a tremendous amount of fun. And all their works of art were created in this atmosphere,” she said.