By Victor Mikhailov
Minsk’s Museum of Modern Fine Arts has launched Vladimir Zhbanov’s memorial exhibition, entitled From Me. It marks the 60th anniversary of his birth (1954-2012). Perhaps the most well-known modern Belarusian sculptor, he was the first to create ‘accessible’ city sculptures — rather than lofty ideological works, set upon high pedestals. His Lady on a Bench and Girl with an Umbrella — found in Mikhailovsky Park, in Minsk — are among his most well-loved pieces. The Stargazer — which is located on Mogilev’s Square of Stars — is also well-known. His sculptures are found in cities across Belarus and are much valued by residents.
Polish film director Krzysztof Zanussi, on seeing Minsk’s bronze sculpture of a grazing horse with child jumping upon its back — sited near Komarovsky Market — noted that it was evidence of our capital being ‘a European city’. The maestro was photographed beside the sculpture, with the picture presented to Vladimir Zhbanov.
From Me is the first personal exhibition by the sculptor and had been planned by him in preparation for his 60th birthday. Sadly, without him in attendance, the exhibition has a less festive atmosphere but remains fascinating. It presents works never before seen by the public — each displaying energy and beauty. The message of his life’s work is clear: a desire to enhance the appearance of our cities.
According to the organisers of the exhibition, Vladimir Zhbanov’s colleagues and friends will be attending, to take part in seminars and master classes. Films devoted to his life and works are to be screened and the event will conclude with a round table devoted to his creativity and role in Belarusian art.
The current exposition not only reminds us of Zhbanov’s popular works but shows us models of those which never became full-scale sculptures: in bronze, plasticine, gypsum and stone. The Chairman of the Belarusian Union of Artists, Grigory Sitnitsa, announced at the opening, “Zhbanov was a real symbol of his age — the face of Minsk. He managed not only to beautify the capital but to create its mood and to accentuate its existing beauty.
Vladimir Zhbanov was born in January 1954, in Minsk, and graduated from Minsk Art College (named in honour of Glebov) before entering the Belarusian State Theatre-Art Institute’s Sculpture Department. He also studied at the USSR Academy of Arts. From 1985 until 1999, he worked as a teacher at Minsk Art College and, in 1993, became a member of the Belarusian Union of Artists. He died in January 2012.
His sculptures are placed around the Belarusian capital, including Architect — on Nezavisimosti Square, and Crew — near Minsk’s town hall. They are also found in other cities, such as Bobruisk and Mogilev. His wonderful sculptures are even seen in Dьsseldorf.