Renaissance of Tbilisi Academy of Arts - The first art academy of Caucasus being revived
23 April, 2018
Renaissance of Tbilisi Academy of Arts - The first art academy of Caucasus being revived
The Tbilisi Academy of Arts is one of those hidden jewels of the capital of Georgia that the country can be proud of. The old building of the academy, constructed in the 1850s, was the first Art Academy in the Caucasus and the cultural hub of the region. The building, decorated with intricate stained-glass windows and lined with enamel and mirror mosaics, represents a unique example of a historic and cultural landmark, that has given birth to generations of great
Georgian artists who have contributed to the development of Georgian culture.
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Restoration works in Tbilisi Academy of Arts

You can find it at 22 Griboedovi Street, the synthesis of European and Eastern architecture mimicking Tbilisi’s cosmopolitan nature. The building has endured more than a century, experiencing many hardships, including Soviet terror, to survive to today. Yet over the last decades, the crumbling building has been on the verge of destruction, alarming both the academy’s personnel and art enthusiasts who know its value. In 2015, the Apolon Kutateladze Academy of Arts was selected for a rehabilitation project by the Ministry of Culture and Sport of Georgia. The long-awaited restoration and maintenance works were launched the same year, with the professors and students of the academy and graduates getting readily involved. The renovation works are ongoing and are expected to be finished by the end of 2018.
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Entrance of Tbilisi Academy of Arts

On April 16, Mikheil Giorgadze, the Minister of Culture and Sport of Georgia, and Mariam Jashi, the Chairman of the Education, Science and Culture Committee, inspected the large-scale rehabilitation works at the Academy of Arts and held a meeting with the students. At this stage, the construction maintenance works have been completed, the roof has been replaced, and the western and northern facades have been repaired. Currently, restoration and conservation works are in progress in the eastern-style halls and in the yard. The entire building has also been upgraded and adjusted to be accessible to people with disabilities.
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The project aims at reviving and preserving the authentic appearance of the historic building as much as possible, maintaining and strengthening the foundation as well as repairing the interior. Additionally, after the completion, special spaces for workshops and for storing educational resources and museum funds will be arranged. In order not to disrupt the students during the renovation, studies were moved to the renovated Academy-owned building at 34 Kipshidze Street.
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One of the academy rooms in Golestan Palace style

The main features of the Academy are the halls adorned with mirrors, designed by specially invited Khanjar artisans from Iran when the building was originally constructed. The building has an eclectic character.The Barrocco style is synthesized with late Classicist and late Iranian styles elements . Art experts compare these halls to the interiors of eastern-style palaces of Iran or the famous Golestan Palace, one of the oldest historic monuments in the city of Tehran, and of world heritage status. Built over 200 years of Qajar rulership, between 1925 and 1945 a large portion of the buildings of the Golstan Palace complex were destroyed on the orders of Reza Shah.
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Interior mirror mosaic
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Interior door decoration

As such, Georgia’s Academy of Arts possesses precious examples of royal decoration that no longer exist. Initially, before the Art Academy was opened in 1869-1886, the palace hosted club, hotel, library, billiard hall and chambers for dance and stage performances. Later the only art academy in Caucasia was founded there.
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When there was a hotel instead of the academy
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Hotel's restaurant
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Billiard Hall  before the Academy of Arts was established in the palace

The Tbilisi Academy of Arts started out as a school of arts for beginners. In 1901, an Arts Middle School was added under the patronage of Saint Petersburg’s Imperial School of Arts. By 1921, there were already several private art schools in Tbilisi and other cities of Georgia, soon followed by a number of art studios and workshops. At the beginning of 1922, Mose Toidze, celebrated Georgian artist and professor, established the Public Art Studio. On March 8 1922, the first Academy of Arts in the entire Caucasus was established, among the three main academies in Leningrad (Saint Petersburg), Riga and Tbilisi that functioned in the Soviet Union.

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During the first year, only four faculties were available: painting, sculpture, graphics and architecture. Later, it expanded and in 1927 the Ceramics Department was added. Academy counted over 156 students, in 1946-1947 the number increased to 270, in 1973, 848 students enrolled and 204 professors worked at the Academy. Today, there are 1380 students and 370 professors.
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Art Academy class

On May 14, 1922, the academy Professors Council elected the first Rector George Chubinashvili, founder of the Georgian art historian school. Renowned artists, sculptors and architects, creating in Georgia in those times, were invited to teach at the academy. The stuff was expanded by the artists, who gained education abroad such as  Nikoloz Kandelaki, who studied in Leningrad; Lado Gudiashvili (1926) and David Kakabadze (1928), who returned from France, etc.
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Tbilisi Academy of Arts

The theoretical disciplines were taught by re-known academics, such as: Dimitri Uznadze, Shalva Amiranashvili, Vakhtang Kotetishvili (1928), Shalva Nutsubidze, etc. In 1931 the institute was closed and in 1933, the academy of arts revived and adopted its present name of Tbilisi State Academy of Arts. The faculties of painting, sculpture, graphic arts and ceramic were revived, too. The Faculty of Architecture was re-established in 1937.
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Tbilisi Academy of Arts  staff
The academy like many other institutions underwent waves of repressions in the USSR that left its mark on the academy of arts. in the aftermath of the repressions  V. Kotetishvili, A. Duduchava, the student-sculptor O. Kremer, the first graduate lady from the Faculty of Architecture R. Vashakidze, were executed whereas others were forced to leave  the country because of spreading "wrong ideas" such as impressionism. The Soviet terror was followed by the Second World War that hindered the development of the academy, since 80 artists were obliged participate in the war, most of whom perished.

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Art Academy studio
During the times of  the USSR, the academy of arts was once again at the risk closing. The academy Rector of that time- Apollon Kutateladze (1959-1972), whose name the academy carries at present, put substantial effort. He paid visit to Moscow a couple of times in order to gain support among the highest governmental officials. His efforts were not in vain and as a result Tbilisi State Academy of arts survived.
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Art Academy class

Author: Lika Chigladze

Source: GEORGIA TODAY

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