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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The Safest Art Gallery in the City

Much to its owners' chagrin, the new TaNi Gallery might be the one of the most daunting art salons in the world. To visit the gallery, located in the stately President Hotel, art lovers have to get past a tense militia checkpoint out by the main gate. Security has to be tight because of the 200-odd deputies of the State Duma who call the hotel home.

"People have been very nice to us here, but this is a very closed place," says Zurab Getsadze, who started the gallery with Georgy Bartaya. Getsadze's abstract canvases are the basis for TaNi's first show. "Maybe our gallery can open the doors for more people."

One of the most impressive things about the TaNi Gallery -- named for the proprietors' daughters, Tamara and Nina -- is that it exists in the first place. Getsadze and Bartaya arrived in Moscow six months ago with about 80 canvases and hardly any money. Three years earlier the two friends left Tbilisi for St. Petersburg, where they ran an apartment gallery, so they were not strangers to the art scene. They were new to Moscow, though, and could not find display space. Instead, as Bartaya says, they found a metsenat -- a patron of the arts. Their savior was an affluent entrepreneur from Georgia named Anzor Abesadze, who Bartaya met last year while on vacation in Turkey. Abesadze arranged for the gallery space in the President. It was partly a benevolent gesture and partly business; Abesadze is a collector and gets an early peek at any art exhibited for sale.

The deal suits Bartaya and Getsadze fine, as they now have what they were aiming for: an art salon in Moscow. Even though the gallery itself is not much bigger than a large dining room, the pair is content. They even designed the President Hotel's new emblem, which is more than a little reminiscent of the American presidential seal.

"Moscow is the capital, the biggest and most important city in Russia," said Bartaya, who used to be a screen actor in Georgia. "We realized that if we wanted to really succeed, we had to come here."

The first exhibit, which opened March 25, is a one-man show of canvases Getsadze painted during the past six months in Moscow. This might sound a bit self-serving, but actually it is a good idea. Getsadze's intelligent, ironic work has been shown in Europe and America, and bought by private collectors in Chicago, Miami, Amsterdam, Rome, and beyond. These recent paintings are a touch dense, but still good to look at. Getsadze plans each one meticulously, so not a centimeter of canvas is wasted. The artist might be the Oliver Stone of Georgian painting -- he hits you over the head with the symbols. In "Brief Biographical Cardiogram," for example, punctuation marks on the barrel of an ethereal pink gun symbolize the life experience of a human being. Adolescence is a question mark, death is a cross, and the afterlife is a long dash.

The TaNi gallery will not concentrate exclusively on art from Georgia, the proprietors say. Bartaya says that he has an agreement with the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg -- which they refer to as simply "Peter" -- to borrow some art for display, and TaNi's next exhibit will be a show by five young Moscow painters. In addition, their St. Petersburg gallery still exists, and expansion is on Bartaya's mind.

"It is a very small world," he says. "Moscow is not the last step. Zurab is going to have an exhibit in Melbourne and London this year."

Even with all this travel in their plans, the friends claim to be immune to homesickness. Bartaya says that leaving Georgia three years ago was not hard, because people were more interested in politics than culture. He says he and Getsadze and their wives do miss home, but try not to think about it.

"Sentimentality is a luxury we can't afford," Bartaya says. "We have enough to think about trying to run this gallery."

Zurab Getsadze's "National Zootranscriptions" exhibit runs for one month. The TaNi Gallery is located in the President Hotel, 24 Ulitsa Bolshaya Yakimanka. You can see the gallery by appointment only: Tel. 143-1301, noon to 3 P.M. Nearest metro: Oktyabrskaya.