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January 07, 2010

Slavic Heritage and Culture


The Essential Insight:

Dating back to as early as September 2005, the New York metro area has been experiencing a noticeable rise in enthusiasm for Slavic culture and art. Because of the significant purchasing power of Slavic communities, this rise in interest makes the Slavic segment a powerful and attractive community for businesses to invest in. 
 
Emerging from seemingly nowhere, Slavic culture has steadily become more visible throughout the United States. From California and Las Vegas to Chicago and Virginia, the Slavic presence has increased in various forms. Whether through large ethnic-based associations or small grassroots Slavic bands and organizations; people are becoming more exposed, engaged and educated in Slavic art and history. Yet, nowhere has Slavic culture been more visible than in the infamous New York metro area currently, considered to be experiencing a ‘Slavic Moment’.
 
In her New York Times article: New Slavs of New York: All Bling and No Borscht, journalist Natasha Singer became one of the first writers to depict the impact of the Slavic market in New York City. According to Natasha, NYC began to embrace Slavic art, fashion, and film from as early as the fall of 2005.[i] From vodka and caviar promotion parties on Liberty Island to the rise in popularity of young female Russian tennis players; anything Slavic has suddenly become the popular city trend to follow.
 
Slavic culture has even dominated a NYC fashion scene once dominated by Latin American models, fashion, and culture. Fashion in the New York City has now become a unique exhibition of the Slavic air. During New York’s Fashion week, runways were not only dominated by Russian and Ukrainian models but also with clothing from fashion moguls illustrating traditionally popular Slavic trends.
 
Russians began their large immigration into the United States in the late nineteenth century. However, only recently they begun to become visible in the media and to the general American public with the new influx of Russian speaking immigrants, especially after the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the rise of a free market economy. Today the New York metro area includes about 1.5 Russian speakers with a generally high median household income. With such a significant representation and strong purchasing power in the metro area, Russians are proving to be an attractive segment for companies to invest and become involved in.
 
Slavic art exhibitions have also become very popular for New York City museums to display. From September 16, 2005 – January 11, 2006, the Guggenheim Museum displayed its much proclaimed “Russia!” exhibition. The collection was considered to be the most comprehensive exhibition of Russian art outside of Russia since the end of the Cold War. More than 250 artworks were displayed and the collection included masterpieces from as early as the 13th century. The main sponsor of “Russia!” is Vladimir Potanin a billionaire from Moscow who recently became the first Russian to sit on the Guggenheim Board.
 
For a more historical experience of Slavic art and culture, the Metropolitan Museum of Art displayed in January: “Prague: The Crown of Bohemia, 1374-1437.” The Prague exhibition consists of artworks collected by King Charles IV and his sons, Wenceslas IV and Sigismund. The artistic masterpieces are extraordinary considering the era in which they were collected. During the 14th and 15th century, Czech art made Prague a cultural rival to the collections of the well-known works originating in Paris and Rome.
 
The White Box Gallery on 26th Street also became involved in the rise in Slavic cultural popularity. From December 08, 2005 – June 16, 2006, the gallery displayed: “Russia 2: Bad News from Russia.” The exhibitions displayed contemporary art organized by Marat Guelman; founder of the Marat Guelman Gallery in Moscow. The gallery was one the first and most famous galleries established in Russia shortly before the collapse of the Soviet System.
 
There were also two more Slavic-themed exhibitions displayed by the White Box Gallery in 2006. The first was Alexey Kallima’s: “Dead Calm, Chechnya.” The exhibition dealt with one of the more delicate issues concerning the present day Russian government. A second exhibition, “Permanent Presence: Young Emerging Artists from Bosnia and New York Vis-à-vis,” just recently ended in June and was curated by Seric Shoba. Shoba’s exhibition was focused on “exploring the advantages and disadvantages that both US and Bosnian society face in terms of access of knowledge through the usage of language and exploration of art concepts.
 
The hope of Slavs, such as Vladimir Potanin and Marat Guelman, is that Russian art exhibitions will inform Americans of the true Russian culture. Overall, there seems to be a general belief that the art exhibitions will hopefully make Americans more comfortable in conducting business with Russia. With the overall rise in enthusiasm for Slavic culture, the future and potential of the segment is seemingly endless.