Zurab Tsereteli (born on 4 January 1934, Tbilisi) was a son of construction engineer Konstantin Tsereteli, a WWII veteran and a lecturer at Tbilisi Polytechnic Institute. His mother Tamara Nizharadze belonged to a noble Georgian family. In his childhood years, Tsereteli used to spend time in the house of his uncle, famous Georgian artist Georgy Nizharadze where he met Georgian artists David Kakabadze, Sergo Kobuladze and Chiko Kazbegi. In 1941 he entered drawing classes for children.
In 1958 he graduated from the faculty of painting of the Tbilisi Academy of Arts. He worked for the Institute of History, Archaeology and Ethnography (branch of the Georgian Academy of Sciences).
In 1964 he was trained in France where he met famous artists Pablo Picasso and Marc Chagall.
Since the end of 1960s he was engaged in making monumental work. His sculptors are on the display both in Russia and worldwide - in Brazil, France, Georgia, Japan, Lithuania, Spain, the UK and USA.
In 2003 president Vladimir Putin made him the citizen of Russia for “the merit for the Russian Federation”.
Hero of Socialist Labour awarded with the Order of Lenin and “Sickle and Hammer” Golden Medal
Order of Merit for the Fatherland 1st Grade (2010)
Order of Merit for the Fatherland 2nd Grade (2006)
Order of Merit for the Fatherland 3rd Grade (1996)
Order of Peoples’ Friendship (1994)
People’s artist of the Russian Federation (1994)
People’s artist of the USSR (1980)
People’s artist of the Georgian SSR (1978)
State Prize of the Russian Federation for letters and arts (1996)
Lenin Prize (1976)
State Prize of the USSR (1970)
State Prize of the USSR (1982)
Chevalier of the Légion d'honneur (France, 2010)
Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters (France, 2005)
“Astana” Medal (Kazakhstan, 1998)
“Merit for Moscow” honorary badge (2003)
Order of Akhmad Kadyrov (Chechnya, 2005)
“In honour of Osetia” Medal (North Osetia, 2010)
Director of Moscow’s Museum of Contemporary Art, he has his personal Tsereteli Arts Gallery. He is an honorary artist of Georgia, member of the Russian Academy of Arts (1992). He used to me the academician of Soviet Academy of Arts (1988).
He is married to Princess Inessa Aleksandrovna Andronikashvili. His daughter’s name is Helen. His grandchildren’s names are Vasily, Zurab and Viktoria.
In 1992 famous businessman Garry Luchansky, Zurab Tsereteli and Moscow's Construction Committee set up Columbus JSC. The company ran installation of the statue of Christopher Columbus in the USA («Birth of the New World»). Tsereteli's work was to be installed in Manhattan (New York).
On 9 March 1993 an official from the city council of Moscow asked president Boris Yeltsin to allow to export from the Russian Federation “a certain amount of materials for assembling pieces into sculptural composition” without paying duty at the customs. The petitioner stressed “non-commercial and humanitarian character of the action”. The petition was fulfilled and Columbus JSC was exempted of export duty. Nevertheless the cargo was detained at the customs. In December 1993 the same official petitioned a deputy prime-minister with a long list of items which he asked to export without duty. Besides steel, reinforcement rods, nails and glue there were 600 tons of statuary bronze and 8500 tons of refined copper on the list. The bronze bars were exported without duty. Later the police opened criminal case against Tsereteli on charges of smuggling.
600 tons of statuary bronze were aimed at casting massive Christopher Columbus. But what about 8500 tons of copper? The figure equals 10% volume of copper export from Russia. Besides that, another 6700 tons of copper were exported duty-free in Spain for another Columbus monument. But that was not enough for artists. In 1993-1994 they exported about 30,000 tons of industrial copper (85,000 tons based on other evidence).
Source: Argumenti nedeli, 27 October 2006
In 1997 in the middle of the Moscow River (at the tip of the island between the Moscow River and Obvodny Canal) Tsereteli installed 96 metres high monument “Peter the Great or 300 years of Russian Navy”. Moscow public was divided over the monument. The critics say that Tsereteli’s monstrousity is a sharp contrast to to the surrounding buildings and does not suit architecture of the neighbourhood. In July 1997 there was an attempt to blow up the monument, but the police prevented the explosion. There were reports, that there was a similarity between this monument and the statue of Christopher Columbus, which Tsereteli planned to install in the USA in 1992 (as a present for 500 anniversary of the discovery of North America), but the Americans rejected it.
Source: Komsomolskaya Pravda, 5 September 2002
In Spring 1999 Tsereteli acquired two historic buildings, built by famous architect Matvey Kazakov in the 18th century, from the city council. For the first building in 25, Petrovka Street (merchant Gubin’s mansion), 3585 square metres, Tsereteli paid 4.4m roubles ($180,000). For the second building in 19, Prechistenka Street (Prince Dolgoruky’s mansion), 5800 square metres, he paid 13m ($0.53m)
Source: Moskovskiye novosti, 21 November 2001
In 2004 Tsereteli called for global anti-AIDS campaign. His idea was to counteract the spread of the disease “by means of visual arts”. The sculptor made a gift of the monument to the UNESCO: the monument represented human struggle against the AIDS. Tsereteli planned to set up copies of monument in different countries. Despite the approval of the idea by the UNESO, an appropriate place for monument has not been chosen by the end of 2007 and the monument is still in Tsereteli's own museum.
Source: Komsomol’skaya pravda, 23 November 2007
In 2004 Tsereteli decided to make a sculpture of Vladimir Putin. His plan was to cast precious stone statue of the president. Confident of the success of his idea, he spoke publically about the progress he made working on the sculpture called «Russian Justice» (named after the medieval Russian law code). The model represented barefoot Vladimir Putin, looking like a hybrid of an emancipated Russian peasant after 1861 reform and a character from revolutionary placard, with the heaps of lawbooks at the background.
A spokesman of the Kremlin told journalists: “We were surprised by the initiatives of such famous and successful artist. He knows better than anybody else that president Putin dislikes such things. We hope the sculpture will not be exhibited anywhere but in the yard of Tsereteli own house <…> Zurab Tsereteli stands for protection of his own intellectual property. He should know that according to the Article 138 of the Russian Civil Code he can not use the means of individualisation (which are the subject of exclusive rights) without consent of its owner”.
For the first time in many years Tsereteli’s practice of first making a monument and then persuading supposed customer to buy it was stopped. For the first time Tsereteli was turned down by the Russian authorities, despite his cringing.
Source: Glovalrus.ru, 28 April 2004
In 2005 the sculpture of Ivan the Terrible was in the center of the scandal. The monument was commissioned by the city council of Vologda. The administration of the Tatarstan Republic sent a memorandum to the administration of the Vologda region. According to the memorandum, tsar Ivan killed too many in Kazan and did not spare the lives of his subordinates, so the sculpture was rejected. It was decided to set up the monument in the castle of the town of Aleksandrov (former Aleksandrova Sloboda, the birth place of the oprichnina), but both a local branch of the Vladimir museum and the administration of the town were against the monument, because of the controversy around this historic figure.
Tsereteli was looking for another location and found historic town of Lyubim in the Yaroslavl Region. But when Tsereteli’s great plans leaked to the local media, Cyrill (Nakonechny), Russian Orthodox archbishop of Yaroslavl and Rostov, made a protest againt the monument. Next day Yaroslavl governour Anatoly Lisitsyn said he was against the monument: «Ivan Grozny is not such an important figure for us to eulogise him. There are enough people who better deserve commemoration».
Source: Noviye Izvestiya, 1 September 2005
In April 2008 Tsereteli announced his plans to make 100 metres tall statue of Jesus Christ for Solovky Islands, commemorating the victims of political repressions. The administration of Solovetsky Islands museum-reserve rejected the monument.
Source: Rosbalt Information Agency, 18 April
In 2011, after the resignation of Moscow’s mayor Yuri Luzhkov, the statue of street sweeper Luzhkov made by Tsereteli was removed from the Moscow’s Museum of Contemporary Art. Tsereteli explained the removal of the bronze monument of the mayor by bad weather conditions and the fact that the statue was part of temporary exhibition: due to the contact with the air poor bronze man with the cap became green. After the monument was cleansed, they transfred the statue of street swipper Luzhkov in Prechistenka, where it met another Tsereteli's masterpiece - statue of sportsman Luzhkov who simultaneously plays tennis and soccer. Thereteli said: «There is no politics in the transfer of the monument».
Source: Russky Reporter, 26 May 2011