‘Shoigu has two roles: as artist and sculptor’

The Russian defence minister’s paintings, graphics and sculptures can be admired in the Kazan Kremlin from August to September

An exhibition of Sergey Shoigu’s works is one of 48 positions published within almost a 12-million tender of Kazan Kremlin museum reserve for the organisation of exhibitions and events in 2020. But it seems that it arouses the biggest interest among laymen who aren’t laden with a background in art studies. Realnoe Vremya found out when and where the exhibition would take place, how it was organised and what professionals’ opinion about the minister’s creative abilities.

Modest minister against his personal exhibition

The upcoming exhibition of Russia’s Minister of Defence Sergey Shoigu’s works will cost 450,000 rubles. One can admire the paintings in the museum of the Kremlin’s Cannon Yard from August to September.

“It is planned to exhibit goods from wood, paintings and graphics (both paintings and album sketches and freehand pencil drawings) of Minister of Defence of the Russian Federation S. Shoigu. A sculpture made of burr (Editor’s Note: a tree growth), which is the author’s favourite material, occupies a special place” the terms of reference read.

However, as Director of the Cannon Yard’s museum Aleksandr Raskhodchikov specified that it isn’t a personal exhibition of the defence minister — it will be a joint exhibition with the Russian Geographical Society (Shoigu is its president). Mr Shoigu’s works will be included in this exposition.

“I would like it to be a personal exhibition, but it doesn’t work. The case is not that there are few works, there are more than enough works. The case is that he won’t agree to have a personal exhibition. All of his other exhibitions also were joint, he didn’t permit using his paintings on personal exhibitions.”

Raskhodchikov explained that Kazan Kremlin became the initiator of the exhibition.

“We looked at other exhibition projects across the country and decided that spectators would be interested in seeing Shoigu not only as a top manager but also simply as a person who is keen on drawing, items made of wood. His works are quite interesting.”

Paintings in oil, burr sculpture

The minister has already exhibited his works in Moscow, Krasnoyarsk and his homeland, in Tuva. 36 paintings in oil, watercolour and pencil as well as sculptures from the already mentioned burr were exhibited in the capital. Famous musician Sergey Shnurov, by the way, visited the exhibition.

“I draw when I have spare time. This can happen before the government’s meeting too. Then I gift these sketches to my long-time friend Sergey Lavrov or Elvira Nabiullina, who has already accumulated quite a big collection of my works,” Shoigu told journalists.

36 paintings in oil, watercolour and pencil as well as sculptures from the already mentioned burr were exhibited in Moscow. Photo: sntch.com

In a talk with Realnoe Vremya, member of the USSR Union of Artists, Honoured Artist of the Republic of Tatarstan Farid Yakupov compared Shoigu’s works with the activity of other movers and shakers who also were into art, for instance, Winston Churchill’s paintings:

“Shoigu’s art is a complete surprise for me. But I am familiar with the art of other amateur artists, for instance, Prince Charles, Winston Churchill, Russian director Stanislav Govorukhin. Though they, of course, are more professional. But Shoigu has two roles: as artist and sculptor. He is based on so-called natural sculpture and develops it — very interesting things are made in the end. It is in general characteristic of Tuva, Buryatia. For instance, I liked the combination of natural wood with small bronze sculptures — it is absolutely new, interesting and beautiful. As for painting, it is very commendable that he paints from life. Amateur artists often pull things out of thin air, while he works with nature. I put him an A for the desire, aspiration, but I would probably put a C for his level. Look at Winston Churchill’s works, the level of amateurism is completely different there.”

Farid Yakupov: “Shoigu has two roles: as artist and sculptor. He is based on so-called natural sculpture and develops it — very interesting things are made in the end”. Photo: sntch.com

Konstantin Plotnikov, an expert in art studies, candidate for philological sciences, an employee of RANEPA, also remembers Churchill:

“In a word, it is a kind of craft. The person loves working with materials, we see it in the sculpture. The landscape pictures are good, wintery, it is a Russian theme, so to speak, but it is just landscape painting. They can be compared with Churchill’s paintings to a certain degree. I mean all this is ways of manifestation of his interest in art. And it is good. But it has nothing to do with high art, to put it roughly, it is neither Levitan nor Vasilyev. Won’t you call Grigory Leps’s songs poetry even if new Prime Minister Mishustin wrote them? So this landscape painting doesn’t become art only because the defence minister drew them. But I will repeat that it is neither bad nor good, such ways of art must exist. Any amateur forms of art are better than, for instance, Nikas Safronov who “seriously” considers himself as an artist, while actually he isn’t.”

By Aleksandr Artemyev