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The project "Beginning", developed in collaboration with Garage, opens at Tselinnyi center for contemporary culture in Almaty, Kazakhstan

In 2020 Tselinnyi, Kazakhstan’s first center for contemporary culture, will open in Almaty. The center aims to foster interdisciplinary collaborations across culture and art and will begin functioning as an exhibition space in fall 2018 with the project Beginning, developed in collaboration with Garage.

The center will inherit the building formerly occupied by the Soviet-era Tselinnyi cinema. It was a space of major cultural significance for Almaty: in 1982 alone the cinema was visited by over two million people. The panoramic structure with a glass faсade onto the city’s own Broadway is still remembered for the enormous sgraffito murals by artist Evgeny Sidorkin. The images of horse racing, dancing, and everyday life were considered lost, but the originals were discovered during the preparation of the building for reconstruction.

In recent years the building housed a nightclub. “Today, art centers, galleries, and museums are the main attractions of big cities,” said Kairat Boranbayev, the Kazakh entrepreneur who is the founder of Tselinnyi. “We would like to give the rapidly developing city of Almaty its own cultural center that matches the latest international standards. Tselinnyi will provide a new impetus for the development of contemporary art and culture across Central Asia and potentially become one of the leading art institutions in the world.”

The reconstruction of Tselinnyi, overseen by British architect Asif Khan, begins toward the end of 2018. With a keen interest in new technologies in construction, Asif Khan has set himself the aim of turning the building into a multifunctional space. After its launch in 2020, Tselinnyi will focus on research and presentation of contemporary trends in culture and art as well as in social development, the humanities, and science. 

Beginning opens on September 15. It is a three-part project covering architecture, art, and cinema, which will reflect on the state of the building and the city, and outline the structure of the center’s future program. Part one of Beginning is curated by architect Ekaterina Golovatyuk and the exhibition was designed by GRACE architects.

Anton Belov, Director of Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, commented: “At Garage we believe it is very important to take our mission, spirit, and philosophy to places outside Moscow. We are open to new collaborations and are glad to bring new experiences and learning opportunities to people in Moscow, Russia, and abroad. Today, Garage is not only a leading Russian museum, but also an institution that generously shares its discoveries with colleagues to create new culture in the future.”

On September 15, the public program for Beginning will open with a presentation of a new guidebook on Almaty’s modernist architecture by historians Anna Bronovitskaya and Nikolai Malinin, the result of their two-year collaboration with Garage, photographer Yuri Palmin, and Almaty’s architectural community. Immersing the reader in its social, political, and cultural contexts, the authors revisit the postwar architecture of the city, which to many has become a symbol of the Soviet modernist project.


Photo: Tselinny Cinema. 1960-s. From Alma-Ata photo album. 1978. Edited by M. Baisurov. Central State Archive for Film Documents and Audio Recordings of the Republic of Kazakhstan

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