A Russian street artist has won first prize at the New York art fair with his politically-charged piece.

Yekaterinburg street artist Timofey Radya took the top honour at the first New York edition of the Cutlog Art Fair, held 9 to 13 May 2013, with a pyramid sculpted from forty police riot shields symbolising the fragility of power.

Timofey Radya, 'Figure #1: Stability', 2013, police riot shields. Image courtesy Timofey Radya.

Timofey Radya, ‘Figure #1: Stability’, 2013, police riot shields. Image courtesy Timofey Radya.

Timofey Radya, a philosophy student before he turned to street art, won Cutlog NY‘s Artist Prize for Figure #1: Stability, a large-scale urban installation modelled on a 2012 work. Russia Beyond the Headlines claims that the sculpture is Radya’s vision of the current Russian government, which is “based on force but able to be brought crashing down like a house of cards”.

Following the announcement of Radya’s win, Cutlog founder Bruno Hadjadj did not focus on Figure #1: Stability‘s political themes, stating in a press release,

The Cutlog NY prize is an expansion of Cutlog Paris’s ARTE prize, and was originated to support a rising art star for his or her outstanding work at the fair.

Timofey Radya, 'Figure #1: Stability', 2013, police riot shields. Image courtesy Timofey Radya.

Timofey Radya, ‘Figure #1: Stability’, 2013, police riot shields. Image courtesy Timofey Radya.

Street art Stability, political fragility 

Radya recreated Figure #1 Stability outside New York’s Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural Center for the Cutlog fair. The original, Stabilitywas made out of 55 police riot shields stacked in the shape of a house of cards topped with a mock golden throne, and was constructed in December 2012 in a forest outside Yekaterinburg. The structure took hours to assemble and fell down in minutes, a process which Radya and his street art group captured on video.

Watch Timofey Radya and his street art group build the original Stability in 2012 below.

The urban intervention was both a celebration and a critique of the one-year anniversary of the political protest movement which followed Russia’s 2011 parliamentary elections, says Hyperallergic.

Speaking to the Calvert Journal, Radya discussed what led him to create Stability, 

I remember after I saw the protesters clash with the police on Bolotnaya Square in December 2012 […] I really didn’t like it at all […] That was a good example of a problem that cannot be solved with force. That using force is just a postponement of an actual necessary solution. That it’s just building a house of cards, which despite the strength of the materials has a very questionable stability.

Portraits, graffiti and Molotov cocktails

Much of Radya’s work takes the form of installations and urban interventions similar to that of Figure #1: Stability, points out Hyperallergic. After capturing the attention of the Russian media in 2008 with his collage graffiti work After the War, Radya’s “Eternal Fire” series (2011), graffiti portraits of military figures made using Molotov cocktails, garnered coverage from the UK media.

Timofey Radya, 'Eternal Flame', 2011. Image courtesy Timofey Radya.

Timofey Radya, ‘Eternal Flame’, 2011. Image courtesy Timofey Radya.

It was Russia’s controversial 2011 election period which brought more politics into Radya’s urban interventions, claims the Calvert Journal. “You were Cheated” was a series of large-scale billboards erected by Radya and his team around Yekaterinburg in the wake of the reportedly rigged vote. “There are a huge number of viewers on the street,” the artist told the Calvert Journal in a 2013 interview. “I try to work for them.”

In February 2013, Radya was also nominated for the Innovation State Award for Contemporary Art, given annually by the National Centre for Contemporary Arts. Previous winners of the Innovation State Award include Voina, the controversial performance art group which preceded jailed art protesters Pussy Riot. Despite his sometimes critical stance, Radya has avoided problems with the Russian state: he is currently resident at Yekaterinburg’s National Centre for Contemporary Art (NCCA) and has held exhibitions at art spaces such as Winzavod in Moscow (2011).

Cutlog Art Fair New York 

Timofey Radya is the first recipient of cutlog NY’s Artist Prize. Originally based in France, this was the first ever North American edition of Cutlog, which billed itself as a “creative laboratory” for international contemporary artists. The fair, which coincided with Frieze New York, saw 45 galleries and curators present a selection of exhibitions, installations, performances and films.


Related Topics: Russian artists, street art, art prizes, political art

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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