In the 1990s, one of the leading phenomena in the art of St Petersburg was the piquant and refined aesthetics of Timur Novikov’s New Academy movement, which addressed such issues as the “beautiful”, the acquiescent-recreative and hedonism. Besides Timur Novikov himself, there are also the classical works of such associates as Georgy Guryanov, Konstantin Goncharov, Bella Matveyeva and Olga Tobreluts. The Neo-Academist strategy was conceptualised in the spirit of the late twentieth century; sensuality and hedonism inevitably implied polemics with postmodernism. The movement had its own cultural passwords – the sickly eroticism of Wilhelm von Gloeden, the discipline of late St Petersburg academicism and the visual sensuality of Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes.

The photographic and textile collages of Timur Novikov translate the principle of mutual penetrations and the interferences of various techniques and technologies in the materialisation of a single aesthetics. Notwithstanding all its refinement and esoterics, Neo-Academism is “ponderous, crude and visible” in the painting of Georgy Guryanov, Denis Yegelsky and Yegor Ostrov, leaning towards photo-based art, the photographs of Olga Tobreluts and Bella Matveyeva and the fashion designs of Konstantin Goncharov. A genuinely Petersburg phenomenon, Neo-Academism also spreads its impulses onto the Post-Conceptualist artists of Moscow. The influence of the New Academy can be seen in the fabricated photography of Anatoly Zhuravlev and Inessa and Dmitry Topolsky.

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