It’s an amazing, intriguing and rewarding place — I never tire of urging friends to visit — and I thought I knew it pretty well, until I discovered another Moscow, nearly hidden somewhere between excess and deficiency, a very cool city with cutting-edge galleries, cafes and clubs, all informed by an urbane sensibility and designed on an intimate scale. Call it hip Moscow.
Moscow, hip? Hip, after all, speaks to the individual, the personal, the idiosyncratic, and it should involve some fun, a word that doesn’t even translate well into Russian. I’d lived here some years ago and returned last fall to report from The Post’s Moscow bureau. I thought I knew Moscow 2011, but it took visitors from Washington to help me discover hip Moscow. You know how it is — you can walk past the Smithsonian every day for years but never know that the Hope Diamond lies sparkling inside until a cousin comes to stay.
My friends Sue and Chris, who had both worked here in the 1990s, crammed in two days of sightseeing after coming to town for a conference a few weeks ago. They already knew the Kremlin and the well-established museums, and now they wanted to see the less familiar. They ended that Saturday astonished after visiting the bright white box of the Multimedia Art Museum, on one of Moscow’s oldest streets, Ostozhenka, where the wealthy lived in the 16th-century era of Ivan the Terrible.
The museum was started in 1996 as the Moscow House of Photography and reopened at the end of last year as the Multimedia Art Museum after a five-year renovation. Sue and Chris were struck by how many young Muscovites and Russian families filled the museum, and how it engaged its visitors, with friendly docents and lots of information offered clearly in English and Russian.
The Moscow museums they’d known in the past were presided over by legions of stern women who expected visitors to show reverence rather than enthusiasm. Schoolmarm-style guides ruled with pointers, and the art, made long before anyone had heard of the word multimedia, came in a frame.
“It was like something in New York,” Chris said, exclaiming over the new museum, surprised at what had managed to emerge between the mustiness of the past and the garishness of the first post-Soviet decade.