Across the street from Gorky Park, on the territory of the New Tretyakov Gallery and the Central House of Artists lies Sculpture Park, which is known as “Muzeon” to locals. It is most famous as a graveyard of Soviet era statues, but also contains much modern art and several themed, sculpted landscapes all in an outdoor setting.
A Brief History of Muzeon
By Hannah Chapman
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, several statues were damaged in the ensuing chaos. For example, the giant statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky, the controversial former head of the Soviet secret police, was famously toppled from its place outside the KGB headquarters. The Russian government decided to relocate Mr. Dzerzhinsky, many of the statues devoted to Stalin, and several other similarly controversial artworks to a small park behind the Central House of Artists. These sculptures, many created by world famous artists, laid in disrepair until it was later made into a park. Since that time, the Muzeon’s collection has grown to include 600 statues of varying themes and styles.
While this might be seen as preserving Communist glory, these statues are all still in thier damaged states. Further, several installations highlight the darker side of Russia’s Communist era as well. Keep an eye out, for example, for the collection of caged statue heads that are meant to represent victims of Soviet oppression and the Oriental corner complete with a dragon and pond. Some statues have descriptions, though none are in English.
Near the Muzeon sculpture park is an expansive art market. Part is in a greenhouse-looking structure situated at end of the park, furthest from the river. Still more can be found in the area between the park and the river, where people sell paintings from the backs of their cars and from make-shift kiosks. Cross to Gorky Park via the pedestrian underpass, and you’ll find it’s full of painting and sculpture for sale as well. A visitor can find paintings of the most famous sights in Moscow as well as landscapes, portraits and even cartoon characters. Many artists will do paintings on order such as portraits from pictures.
A Stroll through Muzeon Today
By Jack Fischer
Muzeon is a park and open air sculpture museum located next to Gorky Park and in central Moscow. Opened in 1992, the park consists of huge green areas, old soviet monuments, sculptures that could not be exhibited under the soviets, and modern artwork. I chose to visit in the morning while the weather was nice, but it was fairly empty because I was so early. I’ve heard from friends that the park tends to fill up in the evenings when the weather cools off again and people finish work for the day.
The first thing I noticed walking into the park was a big row of free toilets, so if you’re worried about that, don’t be. The park doesn’t have an entrance fee, so you really don’t need to bring any money at all. The only exception would be money for coffee or a snack, which is what I brought cash for. Since it was early in the morning, some of the small cafes in the park weren’t open yet. I found one that was, Caffe Del Parco, and got an Americano for about $2.50. If you visit later in the day, more of them will be open along with some small lunch and dinner places. It’ll be a whole lot easier as you won’t have to wander the park while checking each café to see if it’s open.
After I got my coffee, I started strolling through the park. Along the riverfront I saw vendors selling paintings and frames in small stalls. Some of them looked like they were hand-painted, but others might have been prints. Further down were some small restaurants that hadn’t opened for the day yet. One was a hotdog and burger joint offering American food while the other offered Israeli food. Near the end of the riverfront section of the park was the infamous statue of “Peter the Great”. We learned on a previous SRAS tour that this statue was originally supposed to be Christopher Columbus, but nobody wanted it so it was changed to Peter and erected in Moscow.
After finishing the riverfront walk, I headed into the center of the park. Along the way were different modern statues created by students from the nearby art school. Then I started seeing more and more soviet statues of famous writers, generals, and leaders. There were at least six or seven different heads of Lenin laying around, which was kind of funny. There was also a huge metal sculpture that I really enjoyed. It said “СССР Оплот Мира”, which roughly translates to “USSR – The Stronghold of Peace”. Next to it was a graveyard of modern statues that looked like they couldn’t find a place for around the park.
Other features of the park include an open air movie theater, a playground and exercise area, and a stage used for performances and music festivals. Neither the movie theater nor the stage were open or had anything going on while I was there, but they have plenty of events announced on the Muzeon website throughout the summer. The playground did have lots of children though, and the whole time I was in the park I saw many parents pushing strollers or walking with their kids.
Overall, Muzeon is definitely a fun and cheap place to relax. You can stroll by yourself or bring some friends and have a picnic. You could even tie a visit to Muzeon in with a visit to Gorky Park. Either way, don’t skip it just because you don’t like art. Muzeon has a whole lot more to offer.
A Tour of Muzeon with SRAS
By Samantha Barrett
Welcome to Muzeon (Музеон), the largest open-air sculpture museum in Russia! Here you will find a vast exposition of sculptures, some of which date back to the early 1900’s! We took a tour of this cultural attraction as part of our program with SRAS, studying abroad in Moscow.
Muzeon is often called a “graveyard” for old soviet sculptures and busts of national leaders. The area was originally meant to accommodate the growth of more trees for the city. However, after the fall of the USSR in 1991, statues and monuments commemorating leaders like Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, and famous military officers were dismantled and torn down. To protect the work of Soviet artists, the New Tretyakov opened its enclosed grounds to them and the former tree sanctuary soon became the dumping site for these statues, which were arbitrarily deposited as the years went on.
Today, however, Muzeon is one of Moscow’s most historic and unique outdoor attractions. Located on the bank of the Moscow River, with the infamous Monument of Peter the Great on one side and Gorky Park on the other, Muzeon is a great place to spend a warm summer day outside. Upon entering the park, you will see a barrage of old statues–some that date back to Soviet times, and some more contemporary pieces of art. Located toward the middle of the park are several different busts and statues of Lenin, as well as a towering sculpture of a nose-less Joseph Stalin. As you venture further into the park, you can find monuments that were created in memory of soldiers and civilians, including specifically to those that were imprisoned or killed by the Soviet repressions. There is much modern art on display as well and they’ve even added a Japanese garden at one end. The Muzeon park ends with a beautiful view of the Monument of Peter the Great and the Cathedral of Christ the Savior.
We took an excursion with SRAS to Muzeon and Gorky Park, but I ended up returning to the statue graveyard so that I could have a chance to see some of the historic sculptures once more! Make an afternoon out of your trip, and end your visit with some ice cream at the local food trucks that are scattered around the park!
More Photos of Muzeon and Its Territory
By Jack Fischer
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