Space exhibition leads huge joint festival of Russian and British culture

The largest ever festival of Russian
and British culture, embracing art,
music, theatre, outer space,
Shakespeare and pancakes, is being
launched in hundreds of events
across both countries next year.
One of the highlights will be a
giant exhibition at the Science
Museum in London next autumn on
the Soviet space programme,
including real spacecraft, recreating
the excitement of the years between
1957 when Sputnik was launched,
and 1961 when the rest of the world
watched in astonishment as first a
Russian dog and then a Russian man
became the first earthlings to look
down on the small blue planet.
The director of the Science
Museum, Ian Blatchford, said such an
exhibition, the science equivalent of
the British Museum's legendary
Tutankhamun exhibition, had long
been a dream of his curators. It will
include many objects from museums,
space centres and archives which
have never left Russia before and in
many cases never been exhibited
there either.
Full details are not being
disclosed yet - Blatchford said at one
venue he had asked seven times in
one interview for some particularly
coveted artefacts - but a small taster
of the treasures in the Russian
collections was seen in loans to the
British Council in 2011, to mark the
gift of a statue of Yuri Gagarin: they
included his anti-gravity training
harness and a space seat for a dog.
Blatchford said the time was
right while scientists, engineers and
technicians from the space project
were still alive: "It is imperative that
we do this exhibition now, before
their stories are lost - and that would
be a terrible blow."
However the programme, which
includes hundreds of events in scores
of towns and cities, is being launched
at a time when diplomatic relations
between Britain and Russia are at a
particularly low ebb. The murder of
Alexander Litvinenko, allegedly at the
hand of Russian spies; the detention
of the "Arctic 30" Greenpeace
activists; and demands that artists and
sportspeople boycott Russia over its
repression of gay rights have all
contributed.
"Culture is a good chance to
transform the atmosphere," Mikhail
Shvydkoy, Vladimir Putin's special
envoy for international cultural co-
operation, said.
"We shall be building trust rather
than boycott and isolation," echoed
Paul de Quincey, director of the
British Council in Russia.
Artists and events heading east
will include an exhibition on the
design of James Bond, last seen at the
Barbican which includes Ursula
Andress's white bikini from the 1962
film Dr No, and Daniel Craig's
equally memorable blue trunks from
Casino Royale. Bond, so often pitted
against Soviet-era villains, is
immensely popular in Russia,
Shvydkoy confided.
British film director Peter
Greenaway will be creating a video
installation on Russian avant-garde
art, to be seen at the Moscow Museum
Manege, and later in London. Akram
Khan's dance piece created to mark
the 100th anniversary of Stravinsky's
Rite of Spring will also feature, along
with a retrospective of the rapidly
ageing Young British Artists, a
collection of Wedgwood pottery, and
a celebration of Shakespeare by
companies including the RSC and the
Young Vic.
In Britain, Tate Modern will hold
the first major exhibition in a
quarter-century of the work of the
Russian artist Kazimir Malevich.
Visiting companies will include the
Tchaikovsky symphony orchestra -
founded in 1930 and Russia's oldest -
the Stanislavsky theatre company,
and the 600-year-old Sretensky
monastery choir who will give a
concert at Kensington Palace.
The buttermilk pancakes will
come in spring, at a Russian seasonal
celebration in London supported by
the Moscow culture department, also
including music and dancing.