Who is Zurab Tsereteli?

Zurab Tsereteli is one of the most famous names you may never have heard of. His artworks stand all over the world, he’s a UNESCO ambassador because of his contributions to art, sculpture and education, and as the President of Russian Academy of Arts he is very much the head of the art establishment in Russia and Eastern Europe.

If you’re interested in art and aren’t aware of this at once titanic and obscure figure, you owe it to yourself to educate yourself, today!

Early Days

One of his first big commissions was for the local government of the Soviet Union. Wanting to bring art to the masses, they funded artists to redesign bus shelters across the country, to make one of the most mundane experiences – the simple act of waiting for the bus – artistically enriching.

Tsereteli chose the Abkhazia region, and was inspired by its seaside location, creating surreal shelters in the shape of seashells, decorated with paintings and mosaics depicting scenes from folktales.

These bus shelters (which can still be seen today, and are great way to give shape to a trip to Eastern Europe) were a very successful project and formed the foundation of a career both as an artist and as a way for the Russian state to communicate with the world culturally that is still going strong to this day.

An International Reputation

Lots of Tsereteli’s artworks have been gifted to nations around the world, which both enhance his reputation and put helps to build ties between Russia and other nations. His sculpture ‘Break the Wall of Distrust’ for example, was gifted to the United Kingdom in 1990, a crucial time around the fall of the Iron Curtain, and the building of more friendly and open diplomatic links with other nations. Even the name of sculpture (which is still on public display on Cannon Street) has a subtext that looks to a more free, open future.

Another major coup for the artist was ‘To The Struggle Against World Terror’, a huge monument commemorating those lost in the September 11th attacks in the USA. Gifted to the nation and erected on the shores of the Hudson, looking into New York City, this striking, ten story sculpture is also known as the Teardrop Memorial because of the silver tear drop suspended in its centre.

Tsereteli Today

Now 85, Tsereteli is still a force to be reckoned with in the art world. As well as continuing to create his own work, in his position as President of the Russian Academy of Arts, he’s one of the great cultural forces of Russia, organising exhibitions, education and outreach programmes to help create the next generation of artists.

As an artist with a large body of public artwork that’s been widely gifted around the world, getting familiar with Tsereteli’s pieces could be the focus of your next trip or holiday!