Zurab Konstantinovich Tsereteli (born January 4, 1934) is a Soviet/Russian painter, sculptor and architect known for large-scale and at times controversial monuments. Tsereteli has served as the President of the Russian Academy of Arts since 1997.
Zurab Konstantinovich Tsereteli was born in Tbilisi on 4 January 1934. Tsereteli studies at Tbilisi State Academy of Arts, graduating in 1958. The same year, he married Inessa Andronikashvili, a princess from a noble Georgian family that claims patrilineal descent from Byzantine Emperor Andronikos I Komnenos.
Between the years 1960–1963, Tsereteli worked as a staff artist as the Georgian Academy of Sciences, participating in research expeditions, which in turn served to influence his work. Tsereteli was then granted the position of senior master at the industrial combine of the USSR's Arts Foundation in Tbilisi, where he began to experiment with bronze, stone, glass, wood, and mosaics, as well as creating group commissions for public buildings.
In 1964, he made his first trip abroad to France. He stayed in Paris for three months, during which time visited Pablo Picasso in his studio. This experience served to greatly shape his later creative production. At a later stage he also became acquainted with Marc Chagall and other Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artists, whose characteristic influences can also be seen in the artist's work.
Following his return home, Tsereteli became the chief designer of Soviet resorts on the Black Sea, such as Pitsunda (1967) and Adler (1972). In these works, he combined monumental sculpture, architectural scenery, and three-dimensional mosaic compositions. Following his completion of the project in Pitsunda in 1967, Tsereteli was awarded the title of Honoured Artist of Georgia.
In the 1970s, Tsereteli continued to make public projects in Tbilisi, Ulyanovsk, Yalta and other cities. In this period, Tsereteli also designed several Soviet embassies and consulates over the world, such as those in Brazil, Portugal, and Japan.
In 1978–9, Tsereteli was invited to teach painting as a visiting professor at the College at Brockport, State University of New York. During his stay, he completed and presented to the college two public sculptures on the behalf of the people of the USSR: Prometheus (Light and Knowledge to the World), installed in front of the Allen Administration Building, and Joy and Happiness to All the Children of the World, placed by the Drake Memorial Library. The latter was created in collaboration with Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation in honour of the 1979 Special Olympics held in Brockport and the International Year of the Child.
In 1980, Tsereteli was appointed as the chief designer for the XXII Summer Olympic Games in Moscow. That same year, he completed A Hymn to Man, which sits atop the Concert and Cinema hall of the Izmailovo Hotel Complex, constructed for the Olympics and received the Order of “Friendship of Peoples”. In 1981, he became a professor at his alma mater, the Tbilisi Academy of Arts.
In 1983, he created Friendship Forever, in Moscow's Tishinskaya Square (1983), dedicated to the fellowship between the countries of Georgia and Russia. The architectural part of the monument was designed by Andrey Voznesensky. In the same period, Tsereteli began work on two large-scale projects in Tbilisi: the monument to Saint Nina (1988-1994), and the History of Georgia complex (1985–present). In 1988, Tsereteli was elected an Academician of the USSR Academy of Arts and his sculptural composition Break the Wall of Distrust was installed on Canon Street, London. In 1990, Good Defeats Evil, Tsereteli's interpretation of St. George slaying the dragon as an allegory for world peace in the modern age, was unveiled at the United Nations Headquarters.
In the 1990s, Tsereteli continued to work on public commissions for the city of Moscow, which many insist was due to his personal friendship with the mayor, Yuri Luzhkov. The most significant of these projects include: the reconstruction of Cathedral of Christ the Savior, Manege Square, the War Memorial Complex on Poklonnaya Gora, the Moscow Zoo, as well as the 98m tall Peter the Great, monument erected in 1996–7, which has caused mixed feelings among the citizens of Moscow.
The Birth of the New Man was inaugurated in Seville, Spain in 1995, in celebration of the European discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus. The following year, in 1996, Marbella also received a sculpture, entitled 'Victory'.
In 1997, Tsereteli was elected the President of the Russian Academy of Arts. He established the Moscow Museum of Modern Art in 1995, and it officially opened its doors in 1999, becoming the first state museum in the country entirely dedicated to modern and contemporary art. In 1998, Tsereteli had his first solo exhibition at the New Manege, which was dedicated to the memory of his wife, Inessa. This show became the starting point of the numerous travelling shows of his works, which followed in the 2000s-2010s in Russia, Georgia, Latvia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Bulgaria, Italy, France, the United States, Australia, China, and Japan.
In 2001, the Gallery of Arts of Zurab Tsereteli was opened in Moscow as part of the museums and exhibitions complex of the Russian Academy of Arts. In 2006, Tsereteli unveiled his monument To the Struggle Against World Terrorism, or The Tear of Grief, in Bayonne, NJ. It was donated to the United States as an official gift by Russia in the aftermath of 9/11 attacks to show support and solidarity for the American people.
In 2007, Tsereteli became the UNESCO Ambassador of Good Will. In 2009–10, he was elected a Member of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts (Austria), given the title of Chevalier of the National Order of the Legion of Honor by France, as well as a 1st Rank Order “For Services to the Motherland” by the Russian Federation. In 2011, he received two awards from the Roman Academy of Fine Arts: the “For Life in Art” Prize and the International Giuseppe Sciacca Award for significant contribution to the arts. In 2014, Tsereteli received the UNESCO Five Continents Medal for his contribution to world culture, and in 2015 was elected a Member of the Chinese Academy of Fine Arts.
In 2005, 'Holocaust' was donated by Russia to Israel and opened in Jerusalem. Some of his other works include: the sculpture of Nikolai Gogol in Rome's Villa Borghese (2002), Honoré de Balzac in Agde (2003), Marina Tsvetaeva in St. Giles Croix de Vie (2012), Founding Fathers of the European Union (2012) in Lorraine, and the monument to Pope John Paul II (2014) next to Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral facing the Seine.
Zurab Tsereteli founded the Museum of Modern Art in Tbilisi, Georgia in 2012.
Despite his significant age, Zurab Tsereteli continues his service as President of the Russian Academy of Arts, organises regular exhibitions by Georgian and international artists at the Museum of Modern Art in Tbilisi, as well as continuing to produce artwork.
On December 6 2020 Tsereteli was honored the highest state order of Serbian for his contribution of the interior decoration of the Church of Saint Sava in Belgrade, for which the Russian Academy has been the main contractor.
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