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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Elite Gather For Tsereteli Work, Party

If artistic value was judged by the sheer number of an artist's powerful friends and admirers, sculptor Zurab Tsereteli would be the greatest of the great. From ministers to entertainers, generals to businessmen, and cultural icons to foreign ambassadors, hundreds came Monday to lavish flowers, kisses and praise on Tsereteli at the opening of his exhibit at the Maly Manezh exhibition hall.

At Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov's bidding, Tsereteli has changed the face of the Russian capital, most notably with his widely panned gigantic sculpture of Peter the Great on the banks of the Moscow River. His sculptures have also embellished such major Moscow renovation projects as the Poklonnaya Gora memorial park, the Manezhnaya Ploshchad shopping mall, the Moscow Zoo and Christ the Savior Cathedral.

But Monday was a first f a major show by Tsereteli the painter. About 300 colorful paintings f still lifes of flowers, expressive portraits, allusions to greats such as Pablo Picasso and Niko Pirosmani f adorned the walls.

One ironic bronze sculpture, "A Great Master's Metacarpus," consisted of a mighty hand, a scale model of the Christ the Savior Cathedral f and a lovingly rendered imitation of Luzhkov's trademark leather cap.

Luzhkov, who Monday could be found squarely in the eye of the celebrity storm, was among many speakers who gushed with love for the man seen as the mayor's pet sculptor.

"At this exhibit, Zurab reveals himself as an extraordinary, brilliant and unique artist, who opens a new course in our art," Luzhkov said in his opening remarks. "He is a tireless worker, who attempts to embrace the whole world with his mighty talent."

But it was hardly a Bohemian opening: The guest list was a who's who of the establishment, among them three Cabinet officials f Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matviyenko, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and Culture Minister Vladimir Yegorov.

In one clique, Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov and clothes designer and producer Anatoly Klimin f better known for his trademark Tom Klaim f informally discussed employment at Russian textile factories. Elsewhere Umar Dzhabrailov, the general manager of the Radisson Slavjanskaya Hotel and developer of the Manezh shopping mall, sailed through the crowd, accompanied by stocky bodyguards.

Few espoused any critical opinions Monday, as all were to leave the exhibition hall for a banquet at the Metropol Hotel f Tsereteli's parties are famed among Moscow's bon ton.