Guslik ‘Art Prostrantsvo’
Hugh Gatenby chills at a ‘creative art space’ outside Moscow, and makes new friends, including apparently, his body-double (Editor’s note).
Art Prostranstva (literally ‘art spaces’) are big business in Moscow. Abandoned Soviet-era factories, indeed even buildings predating the Revolution, are converted into galleries, workshops, hipster cafes, pricey boutiques – often with ‘loft accommodation’ thrown in. The Art-Play and Vinzavod (‘Wine Factory’) complexes, near Moscow’s Kursk station, are prime examples. So it was with an open mind, but coloured by expectations of the above, that my friend and I set off for the strangely-named Tvorcheskaya Usad’ba Guslitsa (the ‘Creative Estate Guslitsa’) some 100 kilometres outside Moscow. A surprise awaited.
‘Guslik’ – the diminutive name by which the sprawling complex is affectionately known – is huge. Situated in open countryside (its nearest population centre of any size is the town of Gzhel, known for its eponymous iconic blue-and-white porcelain) it is a brick-built, much-renovated, former textile factory dating from Tsarist times. It started production just before Napoleonic armies crossed the border into Russia. While much of the evidence of its former use, including the giant looms, have been removed, it still retains a legacy of its industrial past which has been agreeably incorporated into an enormous creative space – there’s no other way to describe it. Products of its innumerable workshops line the walls, corridors, hang from ceilings and stand in hangar-like halls. A labyrinth of artfully-lit passageways, caste-iron staircases, corridors and tunnels run through the buildings. Thankfully, it lacks any boutiques or hipster cafes, though there is an excellent restaurant there which, like everything else in this place, is absolutely massive – as are the mouth-watering portions, served up by cheerful, aproned staff.
Doubtless some hard-nosed business goes on behind the scenes, but the enterprise seems to run on enthusiasm, good will and creative spirit. A giant chill-zone that is another world away, while actually being less than 100 kilometres, from the teeming megapolis that is Moscow. The only extraneous noises of the outside world are the occasional trains making their way to and from the capital – or the honking of the stroppy, sentinel geese who wander its grounds. Accommodation is available there, and very good, comfortable and highly-individual it is too. During our visit there was a tangible buzz as staff were preparing for a festival to mark its fourth birthday in its new role. Happy birthday, Gusliki. ‘Till the next visit.