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Mona Lisa's Journeys
George Pusenkoff's exhibition "Mona Lisa's Journeys" at the State Tretyakov Gallery

Rusian Art Gazette




Location: The State Tretyakov Gallery, Krymskii Val, 10
Press show: 28 May 2004, 2 pm
Exhibition opening: 28 May 2004, 4 pm
Exhibition duration: 28 May to 15 August 2004-05-04

May 28 will see the opening of George Pusenkoff's exhibition "Mona Lisa's Journeys" at the State Tretyakov Gallery Ц one of the most important projects dedicated to the myth of the Mona Lisa.

With the Mona Lisa as a reference point, George Pusenkoff invites the visitor to take an unexpected journey, simultaneously imaginary and real, through space and time into the history of art and the creative imagination of the artist.

Five hundred years separate us in the present time and the age when Leonardo created this work which has become a world icon and a legend in painting. Throughout those five centuries, many great artists have taken up the image of the Mona Lisa. In the 20th century, Duchamps, Malevich, Léger, Dali and Warhol have dedicated works to her. But despite the manifold interpretations, the Mona Lisa has kept her secret to this day, and still draws in artists.

George Pusenkoff is internationally recognised as one of the most striking artists working with the aesthetics of the computer screen and media images. In the mid nineties, Pusenkoff presented his original interpretation of this eternal icon, reconstructing the Mona Lisa in the form of a logotype in computer pixels reproduced on the canvas by means of modern pictographic technology. Surrounded by a frame of faille, his "Single Mona Lisa 1:1", with its alternating sizes, colours and materials, has become his distinctive "alter ego" and a symbol of the artist's creative work. While remaining an icon, that is immune to change, the Mona Lisa has metamorphosed into the object of cloning and reproduction, stretching into virtual space and returning to the real world as an echo of the infinitely expanding Net. As the artist himself says: "The Mona Lisa is one of those extremely rare objects in the history of art which have gone beyond the stage of being a myth to take on the dimensions of an autonomous cultural phenomenon. Such a work becomes a museum in itself Ц one in which everyone can discover something for himself: the connoisseur and the layman, the traditionalist and the avant-gardist... When an artist introduces an element of his authorship into the space of the Mona Lisa, he is searching for a formula to describe the world as it is in his time Ц whether it be dadaism or pop-serialism. The Mona Lisa was and will always be a kind of interactive testing ground for new ideas."

The installation at the State Tretyakov Museum is made up of three parts: the "Mona Time Tower 500", "Mona Lisa Goes Russia" and "Mona Kosmos 21".


For his journey through time, Pusenkoff created a gigantic round tower with a circumference of 30 meters, a diameter of 10 and height of 6 meters. The interior is comprised of 500 images of "Single Mona Lisa 1:1", each 60 x 60 cm and made of aluminium elements, within a drum of ten parallel circles. On entering the Tower, the visitor is plunged into a space-time tunnel of rainbow-spectrum colours dominated by the repetition of 500 enigmatic smiles. The circular rainbow has neither beginning nor end and, in turning upwards, could continue into infinity. The Tower is constructed entirely of black aluminium, but the five hundred images of the Mona Lisa are executed in bright colours which are a reflection of the surrounding world, including the visitor. The entire space of the "Mona Time Tower 500" is permeated with light flooding down from above.


When the Mona Lisa was brought to Russia in 1974 it caused a sensation. More than two million people stood for hours in endless queues to see European art's most famous painting. More than a quarter of a century later, the Mona Lisa returned to Moscow, but this time for an unofficial visit... In 1997, armed with his picture "Single Mona Lisa 1:1" (70 x 70) and a camera, George Pusenkoff set off on a journey through the cities and countryside of Russia. The artist felt a desire to return to the places where he was born, spent his childhood and his youth. He described this not as a nostalgic homecoming but as an attempt to verify his memories and compare them with his present perceptions of the world. Accompanied by his creative alter ego, George Pusenkoff captured on film an intense and aesthetically rich dialogue arising between the Mona Lisa and Russian reality, between East and West, between the past and the present. This journey resulted in a series of photographs which could be labelled surreal if they were not so absolutely documentary in nature. 35 photographic objects Ц large-scale "light boxes" (photographs in boxes, lighted from behind, 150 x 120 x 15 cm) from the series "Mona Lisa Goes Russia" (1997 Ц 2001) represent this journey.


Just like every icon, the Mona Lisa is a unifying symbol. For some time now, Pusenkoff has been considering the possibility of her confronting not only other territories, but also other dimensions. He intends to send his Mona Lisa into space. With her, a cultural trail, a symbol created over many centuries will also be sent into the universe and into the future. While this plan may have seemed utopian just a short time ago, it is now on its way to becoming a reality.

This part of the project is represented at the exhibition in the form of the musical theme "Mona Kosmos 21" written by Pusenkoff. It is based on musical writings found in the archives of Leonardo da Vinci. Describing his composition, Pusenkoff says: "500 sound elements pierce the cosmic wind and the echoes of Sputnik's signals."

Pusenkoff's Tower looms at the crossroads of the past and future. Above all, it is a homage of respect to the universal genius of Leonardo da Vinci, and at the same time it is a nod to all the contemporary artists who have glanced into the mirror of this myth. Mark Sheps, a researcher into the works of G. Pusenkoff, remarks that "art needs utopian visions to give wings to the imagination and a driving force to creativity. Mona Lisa's Voice" floats and dies away in the expanse of the rainbow spectrum."

Project Directors: Prof. Aleksandr Morozov, Deputy Director, State Tretyakov Gallery, Nina Divova, Head of Exhibitions, State Tretyakov Gallery

Exhibition curator: Marc Scheps, Director Tel-Aviv Museum of Art (1977 Ц 1990), Ludwig Museum, Cologne (1991 Ц 1997) and the Peter and Irene Ludwig Foundation in Cologne and Aachen (1997 Ц 2002). Author of articles and books on 20th century art.

As part of the exhibition, the Department of New Movements at the State Tretyakov Gallery, under the leadership of Andrei Erofeev, will be organising a meeting with the artist, on 3 June 2004. Leading Russian and international art critics and art historians will be present.

An information booklet will be published on the opening of the exhibition. An illustrated, academic catalogue including documentation on all phases of the realisation of the "Mona Lisa's Journey" Project, will be published in June.

For an insight into the project, please visit:

For more information and visual material on the project, please contact:
Elena Zaitseva,

Press Service, State Tretyakov Gallery
Tel: 095 / 957 07 92, Fax: 095 / 953 33 75, email:

George Pusenkoff on GiF.Ru
The George Pusenkoff web site

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