Doing It In Moscow

Garage Museum DO IT opening

If you ever needed an excuse to travel to Moscow, now is the time to have your assistant book a ticket. Art lovers unite as Garage Center for Contemporary Culture officially becomes Garage Museum of Contemporary Art. Changing the face of museum culture Garage is exactly what Russia needs to grow their cultural image.

The museum is opening the largest iteration of the globe-trotting, twenty-year-old DO IT exhibition. The exhibition began in Paris in 1993 as a result of a discussion with artist Christian Boltanski  and Bertrand Lavier about how to make an open-ended, flexible show. Beginning with just 12 artists, the exhibition has now involved over 400 artist and is still growing. Being interactive, DO IT is like no other. Artist create instructions and ultimately the viewer gets to interpret them. Moscow is thoroughly being taken over by the exhibition curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist as it unfolds at venues across the city.

10308349_10152356863610923_2680894690808500829_nKazuyo Sejima work at Garage

Below: An animated short about Hans Ulrich Orbit’s ongoing DO IT exhibition.

do it (short) from Independent Curators INTL on Vimeo.


When Dancers Attack: Bolshoi Ballet Acid Attacks

When you think of Moscow’s Bolshoi ballet,  the first thing that comes to mind is viscious acid attack. Today, Bolshoi soloist Pavel Dmitrichenko was sentenced to six years in prison for planning an acid attack on the ballet’s director; which left Sergei Filin blind in one eye. Now that’s something not to pirouette about.


Details: The attack was due to vicious backstage bickering and intrigue at the renowned theater. Sounds like the movie Black Swan—except with acid thrown in the dance company’s leader’s face. (Except if that actually happened in Black Swan—I didn’t see the movie.)

Dmitrichenko hired an ex-con to commit his dirty work. The dancer said he hired the thug to beat up Filin – but was “unaware” that acid-throwing was also going to be involved. (I always use the exact same excuse.)  While Dmitrichenko got six years in prison (to be served on his tip-toes) the hired thug received a sentence of ten years – which goes to show; always be the mastermind and never the hired help.

Cop Out Excuse: Dmitrichenko’s dancing specialty was roles of villains. The acid attack occurred after he starred as bloodthirsty Ivan the Terrible – and claimed his judgment had been affected by inhabiting the character.

Being an artist sometimes involves a volatile disposition. Here are a few other circumstances when artists attack:

-Radical feminist writer, Valerie Solanas, shot Andy Warhol because he wouldn’t produce her screenplay.
-Marvin Gaye was shot by Marvin Gaye Sr. Ironically, it was a gun that Marvin Jr. gave his father.
-Tonya Harding had fellow Olympic figure skater/teammate Nancy Kerrigan kneecapped in attempt to take home the gold. Kerrigan ended up winning a sliver medal. Harding didn’t place.
-William S. Burroughs shot his wife in the head while trying to shoot an apple off her cranium. Mexican authorities were paid off. Burroughs walked away a free man.

Moscow Opening: Fresh Restaurant

With life expectancy actually on the decline in Moscow, the importation of a bit of health consciousness has an air of exigency about it. Vegetarian cuisine pioneer Ruth Tal’s Fresh Restaurants, which have become Meccas in Toronto for the non-carnivorous (and those just taking a break from meat-eating), have gone international with Fresh Restaurant, this new location amidst the shopping mania of Moscow’s Tverskaya. 

The menu features a wide range of organic dishes (burgers, noodles), and a juice bar with power shakes and healthy cocktails. The "green" interior is by star designers Olga and Irina Sundukovy, with 19th-Century brickwork that’s complemented by modern concrete, Eames chairs, and bold color schemes (lots of green, naturally). And who doesn’t like the idea of Muscovites getting a little…fresh?

Moscow Opening: Physika

After several waves of invasions of Occidental luxury brands, both Moscow and Saint Petersburg have been steadily cultivating a more indie fashion scene to counter the mega-brand hegemony. To wit, new women and menswear boutique Physika carries buzzy independent Russian designers like Chistova Endourova, Damir Doma, and Sophia Kokosolaki alongside Superfine, Lucien Pellat-Finet, and those titans of the avant-garde Vivienne Westwood and Maison Martin Margiela.

In an uncluttered, but warm and inviting space that is also a gallery, of sorts, Physika also plans to host a series of artistically inclined special events. Additional shops are planned for Paris, Riga and Bali. Get Physika!

Moscow Opening: Intercontinental Moscow Tverskaya

In the zeigeisty matter of cities with the most expensive hotel rates in the world, Moscow handily outdoes #’s two and three, Geneva and Hong Kong, topping each by more than 30%. So it’s likely only a rather mind-boggling bureaucracy that keeps a new hotel from opening every other day. Thankfully, the new Intercontinental Moscow Tverskaya eschews the monolithic glitz of many of the city’s luxe hotels, forwarding instead a sort of "grand boutique" conception.

Indeed, standing athwart all that Muscovite oligarch flash, a low-key glamour pervades the 203 guest rooms and the hotel’s signature contemporary restaurant. But should the VIP itch hit you, the appropriately exclusive Club InterContinental will be open day and night.

InterContinental Hotels Returns To Russia

After a decade in exile, the InterContinental has returned to the former Soviet Union. The InterContinental Moscow Tverskaya opened yesterday, and is centrally located on Russia’s most famous street, minutes from the Kremlin and Red Square (as well as the Bolshoi Theater and TSUM, for the shoppers among us), making it an ideal base for both business and leisure travelers.

InterContinental Moscow Tverskaya features 184 brand new rooms, with bespoke furniture, luxurious fabrics, and a striking glass wall divding the bathroom and bedroom. The hotel’s 19 stunning specialty suites include three penthouses named after famous Russian ballet dancers Galina Ulanova, Isadora Duncanand, Vaslav Nijinsky, with views overlooking the center of Moscow.

Fully equipped for business, the hotel is also designed for plenty of pleasure. The 126-seat Chekhonte restaurant presents a contemporary take on traditional Russian cuisine in the context of family traditions and original recipes, while a lobby lounge and bar called P-Square transforms during the day into a center of ‘’all things chocolate,’’ with fresh truffles available for takeaway. The Elemis spa and health club are set to open early next year.

The concierge is always on hand to recommend activities and experiences for guests to share in local culture, history, and attractions, says general manager Oliver Horn. “We’re in the heart of Moscow, which is the perfect location for our guests because they can take in the local sights and sounds as the locals do.” So if you like to be the first to check out hot new properties, make sure to add this one to your list—the Winter Festival starts mid-December, and the firework-spangled New Year’s celebrations in Red Square almost put Times Square to shame.

Travel Trends for 2012

As 2011 winds down, it’s time to look ahead to our travel planning for the next year. The travel experts at Cox & Kings have been planning luxury trips since 1758, when Richard Cox was appointed to the post of regimental agent during the British Raj. Responsible for outfitting and arranging all travel for the foot guards, he became known for his reliability and honesty, which formed the basis for his business serving most of the regiments in India. These are their picks for 2012 trends.

1. “Ends of the Earth” Journeys – Intrepid travelers are looking beyond the hotspots of the last few years, like Thailand and South Africa, to rarely visited European countries like Albania and Serbia, the Russian Far East, and Greenland. Central Asian spots such as Uzbekistan and offshore destinations like the Falkland Islands and Papua New Guinea are also great options for those seeking the new.

2. Mind, Body, & Soul Vacations – Travelers looking for a memorable experience are looking within, in the Himalayas for new meditation techniques and yoga poses; in Bali for proper nutrition and lifestyle balance; and in countries such as Laos and Myanmar to visit ancient Buddhist temples and the Mahagandayon Monastery, where over a thousand Buddhist monks live and study.

3. “Your Money Matters” Travel – In regards to the conservation of wildlife and preservation of historic sites around the world, travelers’ dollars go a long way. While travelers are often conscious of places they can’t or won’t travel because they don’t support the regime, they can also spend in support, on a trip that will instill a responsibility towards what they saw.

4. Ancestral Travel – Cox & Kings agrees with Kensington: American-born individuals traveling to countries such as Russia, the Baltics, China, and Japan are excited to explore their legacy. Other popular root-travel destinations include Lebanon and West Africa.

5. Second-Chance Cities – Business travelers may pass throw a destination dozens of times and never really have time to get to know the place. Hubs like Madrid, Stockholm, and more recent stops on the circuit like Johannesburg deserve a second look. 

6. Off-Season Travel – Some dream destinations become vastly more affordable with a turn of the calendar page. Think India in May; Botswana during the “Green Season” for its wonderful birding; Brazil and Turkey in October; Moscow during Christmastime; and China in April.

7. Supporting Evolving & Recovering Societies – Though there are questions about safety in countries that have recently experienced upheaval, think about the outpouring of support in New York City after 9/11: visiting countries that are recovering from a national trauma lends support. Places of note include Colombia, Egypt, Tunisia, Japan, Mozambique, Norway, Croatia and Rwanda.

8. The BRICS – An acronym for the emerging markets Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, the BRICS are home to many great cities in their own right, and a deeper understanding of their characters can only help your investment portfolio.

9. Travel with an Expert – Some travelers may question the need for small group travel with an expert, but often it’s a way to gain access to great destinations and private experiences that will make a trip truly memorable.

10. Top Destination Picks for 2012 – Overall, according to the company’s experts, the next hot countries are Indonesia outside of Bali; Ghana; Malaysia; Nepal, Romania, Iceland, and Abu Dhabi. In terms of cities, head south to São Paulo, Brazil; Salta, Argentina; and Lima, Peru, as well as Beirut, Luang Prabang, Hyderabad, Stockholm, Tallinn and Mostar.

[Image via europhotos/Shutterstock]

Russian Biz Boom Means Big Money for Travel

The business world has been talking nothing but BRIC (that’s Brazil, Russia, India, and China) for the last several years, and while some have wondered if there’s anything behind the hype, the travel industry has responded to the increased traffic to these areas. Analysts announced yesterday that air traffic on Russian carriers increased 16.8% in year-over-year numbers from 2010 — 13.8% of which was international traffic.

In line with this trend, Fairmont and Hilton also announced plans to open multiple new hotels across the country over the next five years: a 10,000 square foot behemoth in Moscow for Fairmont, which will be the first Russian property for that company, and four for Hilton, all slated for before 2014. It’s good news for both the travel industry and travel consumers; Russia is the world’s fastest-growing market for tourist spending according to the UN, and Moscow has the world’s highest hotel room rates, according to travel services organization Hogg Robinson Group.

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Moscow Dispatch: Over-The-Top Lavish Lunching

If you haven’t heard by now, Russians have a lot of money. More than you, and definitely more than me. So when I asked for suggestions for a cool lunch spot in Moscow, I wasn’t surprised that Cafe Pushkin and Turandot, two of the city’s most enduringly popular – and expensive – restaurants were consistently included in the running. An average meal at either begins at about $150 per person, even for lunch. Just off Pushkin Square, the restaurants are on the same block, but with two totally different atmospheres. Because I wasn’t going to return to the area for the rest of my visit, I had to choose just one. My instincts said Cafe Pushkin, as it’s more universally known and has history, but my love for the Baroque period won me over, and I went with Turandot.

Turandot is fucking unreal. It’s as if you’ve entered an 18th-century painting. The restaurant is dome-shaped, with an elaborate, sparkly chandelier hanging from a fresco ceiling. Marble columns anchor the central harpsichord, and the walls are lavishly designed in intricate patterns and details, reflecting a bygone era that, in my mind, produced some of the world’s best paintings, style, and music. Everything is incredibly detailed, opulent, and ornate, from the silverware to the dishware to the period pieces worn by the staff. The cuisine, like most Russian restaurants, is “international,” with a strong focus on Chinese-French. I had a steak and glass of wine, both of which weren’t nearly as memorable as the feeling I had that I was on the set of a vampire flick. I wanted to live there.

Turandot, a favorite for locals, is a visually impressive experience. It took six years and $50 million to build. The meal was hearty and good. Not worth what I actually spent, but then again Russia is notorious for bad food. In fact, most Russians go to fancy places for that whole “see-and-be-seen” experience. I would go back to Turandot just to hear that harp actually being played—most likely by a painter’s muse—and order nothing more than a tea… which still would probably cost an arm and a leg.