Belarus enjoys a rich cultural and artistic heritage that dates back many centuries, taking in several significant schools of art and architecture and producing many unique musical and literary works. All surviving masterpieces are now officially protected by the state and showcased for all to enjoy in museum collections and libraries. Classic works of Belarusian music and drama are regularly staged in concert halls and theatres across the country.
Fine Art in Belarus
The variety of visual experiments is typical for modern art. In this sphere Belarusian art is rather traditional. However, the national art school does not tend to the common academic art realization. Graphic, painting, photography, and other kinds of art are developing in the direction of modern visual tendencies. There is a mixture of styles typical for European art.
The largest collection of works of art is in the National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus, which actively promotes national art. Exhibitions by local artists are regularly held here. Other prominent museums across the country are the Vitebsk Art Museum, Mogilev Regional Art Museum, and the Polotsk art gallery. The history of art in Belarus can be traced back to Byzantine influences in the 14th century, which saw the emergence of iconography and manuscript illustration.
The history of fine arts in Belarus is associated with the names of famous artists throughout the world.
One of the most famous landscape painters of the 19th-century Russian realist school Ivan Shishkin came to work in Belarus twice — in 1883 and in 1892. He was always attracted by Belovezhskaya Puscha and the unspoiled nature of Belarusian Polesie.
The whole period of the creative activity of Ilya Repin is also associated with the Belarusian land. The Zdravnevo estate in the Vitebsk Region, where he lived, is now a museum-estate. A bronze monument to the artist is erected there.
After the October Revolution in Russia in 1917, the northern Belarus town of Vitebsk became the centre for the revolutionary avant-garde movement. Marc Chagall, one of the most famous Belarusians, was born in Vitebsk in 1887 and founded an art school in the city.
The vast collection of the National Museum of Art in Minsk features the works of Belarusian artists from the 17th to the 20th century, as well as 15th-century iconography.
Galleries and showrooms
The diversity of visual experiments is inherent to modern Belarusian art. Graphic arts, painting, photography, sculpture are developing in the framework of modern visual trends. Mixing and interaction of styles are observed. Exhibition activities have significantly intensified. International plain air events, festivals, and exhibitions are held in the country.
In Minsk, there are a few private galleries that push boundaries, experiment with provocative works or emerging artists. Marked as alternative or underground spots, they are the perfect places to meet a new generation of Belarusian artists.
For example, in the “Y” Gallery (Minsk), you can not only get acquainted with the current trends in contemporary art, but also attend lectures and workshops of famous artists, both from Belarus and abroad.
The development of fine arts was marked by the appearance of new names in Belarus. Works by Nikolai Seleshchuk, Evgeny Kulik, Valery Slauk, Felix Yanushkevich, Petr Lukyanenko, sculptor Alexander Shaternik received wide recognition. In 1993 People’s Artist of Belarus, Gavriil Vashchenko received a silver medal “Man of the 20th century” in Cambridge. Vashchenko was also awarded the “Golden Disc” and “Man of the Year 1994” medals by the International Biographical Institute.
In the mid-1990’s — early 2000’s young authors came to the Belarusian graphics: Pavel Tatarnikov, Yuri Alisevich, Roman Sustov, Yuri Yakovenko, and Andrei Basalyga. Representatives of the older generation — Nikolai Kozlov, Valery Slauk, Vladimir Vishnevsky, Lev Alimov – are working actively. Representatives of the Belarusian graphic school get positive reviews of fine art experts in the specialized press, win diplomas at book fairs and major art exhibitions. (Yuri Yakovenko and Anzhela Malysheva are the winners of the Grand Prix of the International Biennial of Engraving Jozep de Ribera in Xàtiva (Spain), Pavel Tatarnikov won two “Golden Apple” awards at the International Biennial of Illustrations in Bratislava).
Theater in Belarus
Belarus theater evolved from folk rituals and travelling minstrels. Today the country boasts a diverse range of theatre and drama:
- puppet theaters can be found in most towns, and are hugely popular with children and adults alike;
- professional theater companies are active across Belarus, many of them dating back to the early 20th century;
- opera – every major town has its own opera house.
ballet has been very popular in Belarus since the 18th century, and most towns have their own ballet; the National Academic Bolshoi Theatre of Ballet of the Republic of Belarus has an excellent reputation
Belarus plays host to numerous theater festivals. Prestigious theatrical forums are regularly held in various parts of Belarus bringing together performers from all over the world. The audience’s favorite, Theatrical Meetings, is held within the framework of the International Arts Festival Slavonic Bazaar in Vitebsk.