By Jessica Martino
Internet, a non-place, allows incredibly and unprecedentedly to meet people, keep in touch, discuss, collaborate, grow on the human and professional side, interfacing with the personality, life, career and opinions of a person who, if weren’t for that non-place (invisible and impalpable) it would be so difficult to implement.
So it happens that one day, like many others, two women, one Italian and one Russian, meet and start talking about work, collaborations, and mutual support like women who share the same passion in different ways: art.
I’m talking about the meeting with Anna Varulina in early August. A meeting that we kept in touch, with updating, until September, a moment in which we both would have resumed work.
Before talking about the art project for which Anna works (and she really does a great job), I first want to focus on her, give her the credits she deserves for the work she does for her team that she loves calls “our international UnisVers’ART family“, family of which her made me a part with my great pleasure. All this to say that if it wasn’t for her, I would not have known about the “UnisVers’ART”… and neither do you.
So I want to find out with you who Anna is and what UnisVers’ART does.
Interview with Anna Varulina
«Dear Anna, I got to know you a little in the last month. I learned about you that you are a talented, intelligent, polite, kind woman and this would be enough to make your presentation 10 and praise. Yet it is not enough for me, because I know that behind that education and ethics, that your mind dresses; and, at the same time, behind your kindness in bringing to others (now increasingly rare), and a soul covered by your elegant and classic clothes, there is much more. So, the first question that I have for you is: Tell me about you. Who you are, where you come from and how far you’ve come so far to be here. Feel free to share your professional and human story with us, our Oui magazine family, in which I officially invite you to take part in it».
«Dear Jessica! It’s an incredible honor for me to meet you! Oui magazine belongs to the life of great art, where fine taste, sense of beauty, intelligent approach and style set the tone. I am sure that over time your project will shine brighter and brighter.
Have you ever heard of the Stendhal syndrome? When a person has an excessive sensitivity to art. It probably defined my profession. I am an art critic, independent curator, curator of the International contemporary art fair UnisVers’ART, ambassador of the French cultural association “The Heritage” in Russia.
Art, like an affectionate cat, had been trying to enter my life since I was a child. Now, as I scroll back through the notebook of time, I can identify three key events that made me who I am.
Definitely fatal. I was born and live in Saint Petersburg, one of the most beautiful cities in Russia. In our city there is an authoritative art contest among schools called “The Delphic Games”. I remember how we, as a group of enthusiastic pupils, with a school theatre director and art history teacher, performed a play that revived Sandro Botticelli’s painting “La Primavera”.
In my senior year, I participated in the city’s literature competition, where I won first prize with a study comparing the work of artists Borisov-Musatov, Vrubel and the “silver age” poets Gumilev, Gippius, Blok.
When I went to the university, I met a collector from an aristocratic Danish family who came with a delegation to an international conference. For some mysterious reason, he decided to take me on as his “apprentice” and generously shared with me the stories from his personal experience with Sotheby’s and Christie’s houses, the process of buying unique English furniture in Cherchill’s style, exclusive Omega chronographs, and Regency paintings throughout histrip to Russia.
The lag between these three events was about 8 years. After that, I realized that my life doesn’t make sense if it doesn’t have art in it. Russian students have an anecdote: “a session is when you sleep with books.” In my case, life is when you live with paintings and sleep with the best books of art.»
«What are your favorite artistic current, painting and artist? The three things do not necessarily have to be connected, you can have a favorite artistic current like neoclassicism; as a favorite painting The kiss by Francesco Hayze and as a favorite painter SergejVasilievič Maljutin. I like to range as well as art does. But that’s not all, I would like you to explain to me also because that current artist, that painting and that painter.»
«My favorite artistic current is conceptualism. I’m writing my thesis on conceptual art. It is believed that its forerunner was the French artist Marcel Duchamp, who at the beginning of the XX century blew up the public with his ready-made, and the current itself took shape in the 60-70s in the USA. Conceptualism says that without the primacy of ideas, context, and meaning, art loses a lot. There is no task more important than asking questions. Better yet, awkward questions. Conceptualism is the basis of some new media projects, Arte Povera, digital and glitch art.
A painting? You can guess, of course – “La Primavera” by Sandro Botticelli.
An artist? Russian art group AES+F, known all over the world. By the way, in 2019, together with director Fabio Cherstich, they became co-authors and set designers of the production of the Opera Turandot, which premiered in Palermo at the Teatro Massimo. Projects by AES+F is a social psychoanalysis, deep and versatile.»
«What made you so passionate about art that you made it your job? Do you remember the moment or the emotion that made you fall in love with it?»
«Peggy Guggenheim in her “Confessions of an art obsessive” recalls how she became infatuated with art in Italy, where she not only admired the masterpieces of architecture and painting, but also tried to apply to each favorite work the seven principles of Bernard Berenson. It seems to me that art chooses and “teaches us not only to look, but also what to be” (again, according to Berenson).
The Hermitage has a work that is considered the most important in the entire museum – “The prodigal son returns” by Rembrandt. When you look at these muted and so deep colors, you see the glow and there is no doubt now this picture will be forever in your heart. Perhaps such emotions form a passion for art that will not fade as long as you are able to think, see, and love.»
«Let’s now turn to the project… What is UnisVers’ART specifically? Tell us his story.»
«UnisVers’ART is an International Contemporary Art Fair that is of French origin. Its founder and the president of the French cultural association “The Heritage”, Natalia Dupont Dutilloy, said in an interview that the project’s mission puts an equal sign on the diplomatic map between the values, national identities and diverse cultures of all those who are looking for bridges connecting creative search, creative work and uniqueness in the universal landscape of art. At this stage, UnisVers’ART unites 18 countries and represents its residents in the virtual gallery of the art fair, as well as preparing for a large-scale exhibition in St. Petersburg (Russia) in the historical place – The Brullov Mansion. This year’s competition theme is “United in art”. Each participant was asked to think and present its own vision of the answer to this question.»
«I know the headquarters are in France, yet there will be an exhibition of the Salon UnisVers’ART in St. Petersburg, which is the one you will deal with your Russian family. Tell me about the St. Petersburg exhibition. When will it happen? Who can participate and how? You know there could be artists among us, very talented and maybe interested. Let them discover as much as possible about UnisVers’ART as a virtual gallery and as a project in which artists can exhibit their works between France and Russia. Feel free to share with us all you want.»
«The International Contemporary Art Fair UnisVers’ART will be held in November, in St. Petersburg (Russia). Now we have more than 50 participants. Accordingly, we have reached the upper limit in terms of the total exhibition load of this year’s exhibition space. Artists, photographers, and sculptors from 18 countries take part in the UnisVers’ART. All residents were strictly selected by the Organizing Committee. Someone, unfortunately, we had to refuse. Applications were twice the total capacity of the exhibition halls.
We work with contemporary art. In 2020, the world-famous artist Jean Luc Boun became the guest of honor and resident of UnisVers’ART. In addition to the love of collectors from various countries, his works are kept on permanent display in major museums in China, Korea and Vietnam.
Our goal is to present the space, both exhibition and virtual, to all truly talented people who share the mission and values of UnisVers’ART. We are open to any kind of artistic collaboration. In addition, we are looking for talented emerging artists who are just starting their creative path. We have formed a number of mentoring initiatives for them and support their creativity both in Europe and in Russia.»
«This last one is not a question. I leave you a blank space in which, if you want, you can add whatever you want, maybe something that I didn’t ask you for or deepen something that is close to your heart. This space is yours and you can say anything you want.»
«Over the past few years, my reference books, which I return to again and again, have become books from the rare, collection series “Masters of art about theart” written in 1969. In volume 5 Auguste Renoir in conversation with the artist Albert Andre says:
As a critic and curator, I am very close to Renoir’s position. After all, each artist sings his own song, and the museum is able to preserve this artistic polyphony and pass the baton to future Titian and Raphael. There are no borders for creativity, just as there are no borders for international friendship that unites cultures and builds bridges of cooperation and mutual respect.»