Frozen Water as High Art at Ice Sculpture Gallery

Gallery Of Russian Ice SculpturesMany classics of the ice-carving genre also feature in the works on display.
Ice sculpture as a genre is often limited to the unfortunate wedding-party banalities of hearts and snowflakes, while massive Chinese dragons and obscure mythical scenes far more rarely take form under the chain saw or chisel.

The Gallery of Russian Ice Sculptures in northwest Moscow strikes a keen balance between these two tendencies, forming a trippy wonderland of Russian literary faces, tropical sea life and what is practically an entire castle full of frozen medieval figures.

"The goal of the gallery's opening is to give people an opportunity throughout the year to experience a winter fairy tale," explained Yekaterina Shchennikova, the gallery's marketing director.

Opened earlier this year, the gallery boasts 90 tons of intricately carved frozen water with a minus 10-degree-Celsius interior to preserve their forms. The project was the condensation of ideas and talent of 12 ice-sculpting masters, led by Mikhail Mukha, a veteran of the medium.

"Looking around at the world of ice sculpture, I saw that there was very little that was highly artistic," Mukha said about forming the idea for the gallery. "A lot of times, people don't pay attention to detail and make things exact because they know that it will simply melt away. I wanted to make this very high class because it is preserved."

Gallery Of Russian Ice Sculptures
The sculptures' intricate detail is preserved in a minus 10-degree C interior.
The team created an extremely diverse miniature city of sculptures. A massive ice throne acts as the centerpiece to the modest space, while around it frozen fish leap through the air, icy lovers lock eyes and an intrepid warrior fends off a multiheaded dragon with a frosty sword.

Many of the frigid likenesses are inspired by Russian authors and historical figures. There are characters from the stories and fables of Alexander Pushkin, Pyotr Yershov and Ivan Krylov as well as a cast of the 18th-century Russian empress Anna Ivanova.

Located inside Krasnaya Presnya park, the ice-lovers' paradise is housed in a building specially constructed to insulate the sensitive sculptures. Visitors are given insulated robes to enter the gallery because of the extreme temperature inside. The thick, bulky cloaks lack sleeves, giving them a fashionable elegance despite cutting back somewhat on their effectiveness against the room's chill, but there are special ones with fur-lined collars for ladies.

Once inside, visitors can walk through the exhibit at their leisure, as there are no guards or stern babushkas watching your every move. The path that winds through the gallery is lined with more than 2 kilometers of hidden cables powering a psychedelic light show. Soft, ambient music is piped in through several strategically placed loudspeakers, and pink, purple and green lights pulse through the sculptures, adding to the hallucinatory mood.

The Russian Gallery of Ice Sculptures is open everyday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. in Krasnaya Presnya park, 5 Mantulinskaya Ul. M. Delovoi Center or Ulitsa 1905 Goda. The ticket office closes at 7:30 p.m. Tickets for foreigners are 470 rubles for adults and 250 rubles for students; for Russians, tickets are 350 rubles, with entry for pensioners set at 250 rubles. 985-220-4619.