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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

No Absinthe, But Plenty of Art




For Viktor Leontyev and his friend Sergei Burkovsky, there's nothing better in life than art.


Perhaps that's why the two have come to call their tiny workshop in a city center basement home - and more.


The two painters added a few armchairs and tables, spread the word that they await guests and opened the doors to their workshop to the public, thus creating an art salon in Moscow reminiscent of the kind that dotted Europe 100 years ago. Masterskaya, or the Workshop, is so authentic, in fact, that one is forever expecting some sort of Parisian painter to turn up with a glass of absinthe in his hand.


Exit Kropotkinskaya metro, cross a darkened courtyard or two and you'll come to a small brown door with no sign. This is the Workshop, where, according to Leontyev and Burkovsky, "everything is arranged according to the laws of art."


Indeed, there are approximately 50 canvases - nearly all the work of the owners - on display at the salon on any given day. Visitors need do nothing but sip their tea (coffee and mineral water are also served) and contemplate the work, or the nature of art in general.


Leontyev, 41, started painting when he was still a child. He spent the last decade organizing exhibits of Russian art - his own and that of his friends - all over Europe. In 1997, Leontyev returned to Moscow. Here, he met Burkovsky, now 23, who had just graduated from the Tashkent School of Art in Uzbekistan, and the two decided to work together.


The two found that they make a good team and their first piece - called "Big Fishing," it combines African rock painting techniques with contemporary ones - now hangs in the private collection of a well-known French art collector.


Leontyev and Burkovsky resolved to continue working together and develop their style, Leontyev said. But they didn't want their work to hang only in the homes of wealthy patrons or in prestigious galleries. So they decided to open their workshop to the public - hence, the Workshop was born in 1998, when they came across the basement the Workshop now inhabits.


"It was in ruins," Leontyev said. But they bought it just the same.


It took six months of hard work to turn those ruins into today's snug dwelling, but the two said their work has paid off: "The Workshop is a gallery unlike any other, where people can come and see how art is created, from conception to realization," Leontyev said.


On most days, the painters themselves are around - and willing to chat or share a cup of tea. According to Leontyev, about 20 people visit the salon each week, but he wouldn't say how many paintings patrons buy.


"We're satisfied with the situation," he said.


The Workshop is located at 5/14 Starokonyushenny Pereulok. Metro Kropotkinskaya. Tel. 241-5751. Noon to 6 p.m. Call before you go.