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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

10A Club: A New Salon for the Cultural Elite

Flipping through a collection of Artur Yang's photographs, one sees the city in a new light. Through his lens, bits of window frames, broken statues, metro crowds -- the everyday and the mundane -- take on new meaning.

"I enjoy the company of people who make me think," says Yang, a Moscow artist of Chinese and Armenian descent. It is only natural that, in turn, he should try to rouse people from what he describes as a spiritual slumber.

"The artist has lost his weight in society," says Yang, sitting in the kitchen of his apartment near Patriarch's Pond. "As people think more about money, art becomes purely decorative -- just something to match the furniture."

Yang, joined by his wife, Tatyana, and several other local artists, is trying to put some of the lost meaning back into art by resurrecting a tradition from pre-Revolutionary Russia -- the salon evening.

The salons, which were the height of fashion in Pushkin's time and carried on until 1917, were what in late 20th-century jargon would be called an evening of mixed media. Poets would recite their new verses, musicians would debut their latest compositions, artists would unveil canvasses recently wet with paint. These evenings of cultural hobnobbing all took place in the comfortable surroundings of someone's home, and were so integral a part of society that salon-hopping was commonplace for the cultural elite.

The gatherings chez Yang may not be an exact replica of the19th-century salon evening. Indeed, they've dropped the term "salon" for the much more hip tusovka. This tusovka, which meets on the 10th of each month, is contemporarily named the 10A Club.

The 10A Club met for the first time earlier this month, featuring the recent works of artists Artur and Tatyana Yang, Karen Stepanjants, Nikita Ogurtsov, Nikolai Turkin, Marina Kovalenko, Maria Maikova, Valery Svetlitsky and French artist Catherine Barsacq. For one day the Yang home was transformed: The usual pictures were taken down from the walls, candelabras were placed on the piano, champagne flowed freely.

For the 50 visitors to the 10A Club's debut, the evening was a success -- from the art on the walls, to the classical guitar in the kitchen, to the Chopin wafting from the candle-lit piano in the living room. But for the Yangs it was like a dress rehearsal. "It was a lesson for us -- now we know what to do differently," said Artur, citing the need for a unifying theme for the club's first gathering.

"To have just a place where different artists show their latest works without any common theme or thread running through -- that is just like any other commercial gallery," said Artur, who said that one of the purposes of the club is to fight against "aggressive commercialism."

That does not mean that the works on display are not for sale. They all come with a price tag, but that, according to the collective, is not the most important goal of these evenings.

"We want to open new borders for our viewers -- to force them to participate, and not just be passive observers," said Artur. "We want to draw an elite crowd in the best sense of the word -- those who love art and come ready to see," Tatyana said.

If the evenings continue to be a success, the collective plans to broaden its horizons with films and catalogs. In their own way they are planning for the turn of the century -- a traditionally productive time among artists. "On the border of centuries there is always a great deal of change," says Artur, "and we want to commemorate that in some way."

In the meantime, the millennium will have to wait. The Yangs and their colleagues are setting their sights on the next meeting, scheduled for March 10. They have chosen a theme on which they will all present their various interpretations. "It is like jazz -- each musician can take one theme and improvise on that for hours," said Artur. The artists prefer to keep the March theme a secret, however, so as not to spoil the impact of the exhibit.

Indeed, the evenings themselves -- and not just the work represented -- are an improvisation. It is a one-time event that, as Tatyana Yang put it, "once created, lives a life of its own."

Anyone interested in attending the March 10 meeting of the 10A Club may call Tatyana or Artur Yang at 200-6232 for more information.