Sometimes as a parent I can spend one morning too many at a playground. There is only so much patience I have for pushing Little Pickle on the swings and roundabout before I feel the need to go somewhere a bit different. And when that happens, Park Muzeon is the ideal place to go. I can soak up a bit of art and culture, and Little Pickle can still have fun running around picking up leaves and flowers (and there is a playground too!)
Park Muzeon is a great place to see Russian sculpture, both old and new. It was established in 1992 as what locals call the “graveyard of fallen monuments”, because it was where the authorities put statues of Stalin, Lenin, and other communist leaders that after the fall of the Soviet Union were no longer wanted in their original location. Some statues in the park are literally fallen monuments. The statue of Feliz Dzerzhinsky, the founder of the secret police was pulled down from its pedestal outside the KGB headquarters in 1991, in what became an iconic moment at the end of the Soviet Union.
As well as statues of communist leaders you’ll also find ones of other prominent Russians – for example this one of Andrei Sakharov, the nuclear physicist and Soviet dissident whose campaigns for civil liberties and human rights earned him the Nobel Peace Prize. It seems like quite a hopeful piece to me – it was a bright day when I took this photo and he seemed to be tipping his head back to soak up the warm rays of the sun.
You’ll also find statues of figures from further back in Russian history – I counted at least two of Pushkin (the father of Russian literature), one of Lomonsov (the great scientist who gives his name to features on both the moon and Mars) and I really like this one of Lermontov, author of one of the first great Russian novels.
When I researched Lermontov for the walk I did about places in Moscow associated with his life, one of the things I recall was that he was considered a bit of a Dandy – somewhat vain about his appearance, and very careful in his choice of attire. One look at this piece, with his necktie and very neat moustache tells you all you need to know! He looks every inch the ladies-man, and it looks like women still fall for his charms – his very shiny legs suggest that many people have chosen to sit on his lap while posing for a photo!
Not all of the sculptures are statues of famous people, since 1992 the park has acquired a much wider range of sculpture (there are over 700 pieces) and it now has a large number of abstract works. One of my favourites is this piece produced by Rzayez in 1997 called The Moskva River:
One of the most moving pieces of more abstract art is the collection of works by Chubarov called “Victims of Totalitarian Regimes”. The wall of faces behind barbed wire is truly haunting, but I realised for the first time recently that the wall also provides a back-drop to the individual pieces of often hunched-over figures – a reminder that in a totalitarian regime, the victims are not just those who are imprisoned or killed but those who go on living in the outside, but no longer free, world.
While you can see many different styles of sculpture at Park Muzeon, it does remain a fabulous place to see communist-era art. I particularly like this very typically Soviet piece by Gevorkyan entitled simply “Woman Builder”. Communist teaching holds the worker in high esteem, and something about her casual, but self-assured, pose seems to communicate that fact.
Or how about this wonderfully bold piece from the late Soviet period called “The Triumph of Labour” by Baburin which seems to elevate the workers to super-human status – the woman, in particular has an almost goddess-like gaze.
In case you’re wondering what Little Pickle made of it all, she particularly appreciated the sculptures made out of granite (because they’re “sparkly”), and she very much liked running her fingers through the gravel that surrounds the collection of contemporary limestone pieces. She also created her own sculpture at the sand pit which might have been mistaken for sandcastles but which she was very clear was in fact entitled “homes for fairies”!
Park Muzeon is situated along the Moscow river embankment close to (and behind) the New Tretyakov Art Gallery. There are a couple of cafes and restaurants in the park (we’ve had lovely meals at Shardam a couple of times which has a kids menu) as well as toilet facilities. If, like me, you’re coming with kids, the playground is behind a hedge close to the art gallery. If you’re coming with children in the summer, then bring a change of clothes because they’ll love playing in the fountains situated between the gallery and the river.