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  Monday, April 6, 2020
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The "Tree of Life", celebrated Ernest Neizvestny's work of a lifetime, has found an abode after many homeless years
A sculptural composition seven metres high, it has been installed in the vestibule of the Bagration mall bridge across the Moskva river in the city's heart. It took the maestro 45 years to elaborate on the idea, and manifest it in bronze. "I wanted the Tree of Life endeavour to gather a huge number of artists, who would represent a great many artistic trends, all to make a sculptural mystery play that would synthesise everything-abstractions and hyper-realism, mobile installations and movies, paintings and stained glass," says the sculptor. He did not mean his opus magnum for Moscow. An intricate combination of symbols and artistic codes, it would appear in its place anywhere-geography was the last thing that mattered in a grandiose concept. Living an immigrant life in America, Ernest Neizvestny met Yuri Luzhkov in 1997, when the Moscow mayor was visiting the United States. The sculptor then offered the composition, which he described as his "philosophical speculation in bronze", as gift to the city. Enchanted, Mr. Luzhkov offered him a site in front of the mayoral office in Novy Arbat Street. A controversy promptly started in the not-so-grateful Moscow. The City Council monumental art commission was shocked-to councillors' mind, the sprawling Tree of Life resembled a blast, of all things. Though commission resolutions come as mere advice not orders to the mayor, Mr. Luzhkov met either party halfway to have the Tree not before his office but in a glassed-in mall, not so very far away. The unveiling was initially scheduled for City Day, early September. The gala was put a month off because of the Beslan hostage-taking tragedy. Today's event brought together a choice of VIPs-suffice it to name Mikhail Shvydkoi, in charge of the Federal Agency for Culture and Cinematography; Vice-Mayor Valeri Shantsev; Anatoli Chubais, United Russian Power Grid Co. president; and, last but not least, eminent if controversial sculptor Zurab Tsereteli. The Tree of Life left high patrons of the arts somewhat baffled. The idea, the message and the motto is what they cherish in the arts. No one could find any of the Magnificent Three explicitly offered by Ernest Neizvestny's "synthetic mystery play", chuckles the daily Commersant.
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