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Growth of modern art in Kazakhstan
While little is known to the outside world, the contemporary art scene in Kazakhstan is growing rapidly. Influenced bytraditional nomadic roots and recent history, Kazakh modern art reflects both the history and the future of this fascinating country.
One such artist inspired by past and present is Dilka Bear. Dilka studied architecture at the Almaty University of Arts, and has since devoted herself to painting. She is influenced by the great masters of the Italian Renaissance, and also gets inspiration from modern surrealist artists. Her work has been shown in galleries in Rome, Amsterdam, Los Angeles and Melbourne.
Astana Arts Fest 2016
With support from several well-established and renowned art galleries, as well as emerging art initiatives and projects, contemporary Kazakh artists are starting to gain international recognition.
In March 2013, Sotheby's displayed artwork by various Kazakh artists in their 'At the Crossroads' exhibition. The exhibition aimed to reflect the wide variety of art found within Kazakhstan that has developed from the “unique encounter" of ancient historical heritages with evolving modern day techniques.
The exhibition was organised with the participation of the Rysbek Akhmetov Gallery in Almaty, which provided paintings by Salikhitdin Aitbayev and Bakhtiyar Tabiyev.
The A. Kasteyev Museum of Arts
Based in Almaty, the A. Kasteyev Museum of Arts is the largest art museum in Kazakhstan.
The museum is named after Abylkhan Kasteyev, regarded as one of Kazakhstan's finest painters. He was highly decorated for his work, by both the Kazakh government and the Soviet Union.
Over the course of his life, he painted more than a thousand paintings in oil and watercolour.
The museum has a collection of over 23,000 works, including historic and contemporary Kazakhstan art, works from the Soviet era, Russian artworks, Western European art, and East Asian art. The museum also features the best examples of traditional applied arts, including tapestry, jewellery, felt and leather items. Given the role of nomadic and domestic animal husbandry in Kazakhstan, it is unsurprising that felt has a significant place in Kazakh art.
Transitioning Kazakh art
In fact, traditional Kazakh art is mainly in the form of carpets, wall hangings, clothing, and decorated yurt parts and everyday objects. However, contemporary art in Kazakhstan has often taken on a more experimental style.
Kanat Ibragimov, one of the country's first conceptual artists, made his name in Moscow for nailing the carcass of a chicken to the door of the gallery that had invited him to exhibit.
"Post-nomadic Mind" exhibition of Kazakh contemporary art in London
Between these two extremes, it seems that Kazakh fine arts truly blossomed in the late 1950s. It was during this time that a large number of young and talented artists graduated from the best art institutes of the USSR, and entered into Kazakhstan's cultural life. Among them were such outstanding masters as the People's Artists of Kazakhstan Kanafia Telzhanov, Sabur Mambeyev, Aisha Galimbayeva, Moldakhmet Kenbayev, Gulfairus Ismailova, Khakimzhan Nauryzbayev and many other painters, graphic artists and sculptors.
Museums and galleries
Beyond the A. Kasteyev Museum of Arts, Kazakhstan boasts a multitude of fantastic galleries. Located in Almaty's city centre, the Oyu Art Gallery specialises in the best of Kazakh fine art, focusing exclusively on established modern and contemporary artists of Kazakhstan. Over the years, the gallery has showcased a variety of renowned artists, including Alpysbai Kazgulov, Aktoty Smagulova, Akhmet Akhat and others.
The National Museum of Kazakhstan in Astana also houses an impressive contemporary art section, showing off the best of Kazakh art from the 20th and 21st centuries. A wider wander around the museum is strongly encouraged, as it covers the history and culture of Kazakhstan from ancient to modern times. Themed halls comprise interactive displays and artefact exhibitions, ranging from a yurt in the Hall of Ethnography to a chronicle of the capital's modern history
in the Hall of Astana.
The impact of Kazakh art can even be seen in Astana's skyline. The Shabyt Art Palace is a striking lens-shaped building, housing the largest art centre in Kazakhstan.
Kazakh fashion is easily identifiable by
its dazzling bright colours, conservative style and adorned ornaments. Traditional garments were originally made from fur, thin felt and woollen cloth that people often produced themselves, changing to cotton in the late 19th century. In the 20th century, materials such as silk, brocade and velvet became more popular, as an indication of wealth and well-being.
According to Vogue, today Kazakhstan has a “bustling fashion industry". Its annual Fashion Week attracts hundreds of artists, designers, models and photographers from across the world, while the country also has a head-turning street style scene.
Kazakh Fashion Week 2018
Kazakhstan has several higher education institutions dedicated to the study of fashion, including the Kazakhstan Fashion Institute and the Symbat Academy of Fashion & Technology. Opened in 1996 by the Republican House of Clothing, Knitwear & Footwear, the country's only fashion
company at the time, the Symbat Academy offers a number of different programmes – including Design, Graphic Design, Visual Arts & Draughtsmanship, Decorative Arts, Scenography, Technology & Design for Light Industry Products, Technological Equipment, and Textiles Technology.
One of the rising brands in Kazakhstan is 'Pentatonica', designed by two friends Kira Maysheva and Saule Dzhamil. The team use only natural fabrics, and specialise in transformer pieces that can be worn in several ways, a reflection of the country's resourceful nomadic roots.