Valery Katsuba (born July 21, 1965) is an artist working in the realms of photography, video and performance; he also writes stories. His best known photographic series are Phiscultura (2006), The Model: Classic and Contemporary (2018), The Seasons. My Friends (2005). Each was created as a narrative, based on classical traditions in art and literature, and on historical research. To create such photographic series the artist works (as director, choreographer or trainer) with models – athletes, dancers, actors, circus performers, workers or friends. His work can be found in the collections of the Centre Pompidou (Paris), the Russian Museum (St Petersburg), the Museum of the San Fernando Royal Academy of Fine Arts (Madrid) and others.
“Russian culture is considered literary; Western culture is seen as visual. Valery combines both qualities: his photographic works are essentially narrative.” Anna Shpakova
Valery Katsuba was born in the village of Sergeevichi (Minsk Region, Republic of Belarus), the son of a forest ranger (Vladislav Katsuba) and the director of the village school (Yanina Katsuba). The second of three sons, his interest in literature, history and art, as well as sport, was shaped in part thanks to the enthusiasm of his teachers. After finishing school at the age of 16, he went to study at the Admiral Makarov Higher Engineering Marine School in Leningrad (now the Admiral Makarov State Maritime Academy, St Petersburg), where he completed a degree in meteorology in the Arctic Faculty with honours. He then commenced postgraduate research under the guidance of Academician Vladlen Adamenko. It was at this time that he met journalist Sergey Kalinin and art historian Catherine Phillips, and under their influence started to work in journalism. He produced pieces for St Petersburg radio and television and for BBC radio and television, and wrote about the art of St Petersburg and Moscow in the age of Perestroika for Kommersant, The Guardian, The Independent, Vogue Paris and others. He gave up his graduate studies, recognising that his vocation lay in art. In the late 1990s, he started to collaborate with Vogue magazine, which set up a Russian edition, also with W Magazine, Elle and others producing photoshoots for renowned photographers such as Arthur Elgort, Neil Kirk, Philip-Lorca di Corcia and stylists Katharina Flohr and Carin Roitfeld. In 2002, he started shooting with his own Hasselblad, a gift from Neil Kirk, who was to become the first collector of his work.
Valery Katsuba started out in the world of photography as a stage director on the eve of the new millennium. For New Year's Eve, marking the turn from 1999 to 2000, he set up a crew that included Andrey Samatuga and Yury Vinogradov, to record the way that the city of St Petersburg was meeting the new millennium. This inspired him to create, that same winter, a series that came to be known as Winter Tales, a collaboration with Yury Vinogradov, Vladislav Mamyshev-Monroe and Evgeny Sorokin. In the archives he researched the ways that the residents of St Petersburg commemorated the arrival of new year 1900, leading to another project, New Year's Festivities. St Petersburg 1900 and 2000, composed of contemporary and archival photographs. This was shown by Olga Sviblova in the Moscow House of Photography that same year. From 2002, Valery Katsuba moved from producing and directing to taking photographs himself. Seeking to discover connections between all times and spaces, through things that please the eye and the imagination, he produced a series of portraits of friends, The Seasons. My Friends (2000-2005). His aim was to create an impression of timelessness, in order to put the focus on the combined appearance and character of the subject. The Seasons. My Friends was exhibited at the Moscow Museum of Modern Art in 2005. Poetic series of portraits are now one key aspect of the artist's work. “I have always been interested in the relative non-variability of landscapes — whether it be a natural or architectural landscape — and historical events passing through them, human fates, and faces. I ask my heroes to stop. And they stop in front of the camera as if in front of the infinity of time and space, exposing their greatness, beauty and fragility. That is how I wish to remember them and how I wish to talk about them, and therefore I photograph them like this, assuming that the artistic photograph will capture the elusiveness and the emotions it aroused in me. Or at least I do everything I can to save them.” Valery Katsuba The other trend in the artist’s work is determined by the influence of the academic, realistic tradition in art. Under this influence he produced two series of photographs, Phiscultura (Physical Culture) and Air Flight. Phiscultura premiered in Madrid at the Society of Fine Arts (Circulo de Bellas Artes) in 2006. It is a visual narrative on the influence on contemporaries of trends in sport and physical education over the past 100 years. Air Flight (2010-16) is a series of photos and videos capturing Moscow aerial gymnasts. “Valery Katsuba is a master of aesthetics, and he describes the human body with the precision and elegance of Praxiteles; but within each of those beautiful bodies, he finds a beating heart.” Andrew Solomon The influence of artistic academies is obvious in The Model: Classic and Contemporary, a series that combines photographs taken at the St Petersburg Academy of Fine Arts (the shoot curated by Semen Mikhailovsky), at the Museum of the San Fernando Royal Academy in Madrid (the shoot curated by José Maria Luzon), and at the Academy of San Carlos and the Museum of San Carlos in Mexico City (curated by José Manuel Springer). In this series, Valery Katsuba establishes a dialogue between ancient cultures, the cultures of the Renaissance, the Baroque, the Neoclassical, and the Modern. Amidst copies of ancient sculpture at the Academy of St Petersburg, he photographs contemporary dancers of the Mariinsky Theater. Amidst copies of ancient sculpture in the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of Madrid, he photographs athletes from the Spanish Olympic team; ballerinas from the National Dance Company are set against the background of paintings by Francisco Goya. “There is nothing more attractive than the dream of perfection and truth. When Valery Katsuba’s camera captures ballet dancers and dancers in front of Goya’s paintings or copies of antique sculptures... it connects art and life. No triumph can be higher than the vital aspiration of a strong and at the same time fragile human nature.” Antonio Bonet In Mexico City, next to copies of sculptures from ancient Greece and Rome at the Academy of San Carlos and the Museum of San Carlos, he photographed the traditional Indian ball game and Conchero dancers. “The result of this spontaneous collaboration was stunning: for the first time in one work of art, in one set scene, one can observe samples of classical aesthetics (such as a Renaissance sculpture or a copy of ancient sculpture) and Conchero dancers posing as guardians of the culture of the Indians of the continent.” José Manuel Springer “Valery Katsuba reminds us (Mexicans) of who we are - the merging of races. His exhibition is innovative, and this is a stylistic exercise outside the usual norms." Carmen Gaitán All three parts of the series The Model: Classic and Contemporary were shown in the National Museum of San Carlos in Mexico City in 2018-19, including staged photographs of the educational process taken in the Academies of St Petersburg, Madrid and Mexico City. The artist has also worked on special projects with companies such as MaxMara and Christian Dior, and on two joint projects with the artist Vladislav Mamyshev-Monroe (Every Passion is Blind and Wild, 2001 and Metamorphoses of the Monarch for St Petersburg Early Music Festival supported by Marc de Mauny and Andrey Reshetin, 2005); in collaboration with Katya Galitzine he directed and produced the 60th birthday party of Mick Jagger in the Yusupov Palace in St Petersburg, for which he staged a performance with acrobats. He has also staged a performance at the National Museum of San Carlos (Mexico City) and produced a series of family portraits. In 2015, at the St Petersburg Academy of Arts he presented a project that is still in progress, Far Away From Home, the tale of a sailor getting to know the world, consisting of a series of photographs and short stories. Valery Katsuba currently lives and works in St Petersburg and Madrid.
Museum of the San Fernando Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Madrid, Spain National Centre for Arts and Culture Georges Pompidou, Paris, France State Russian Museum, St Petersburg, Russia Moscow Museum of Modern Art, Moscow, Russia Centre for Contemporary Art of the 2nd of May (CA2M), Mostoles, Madrid, Spain Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow, Russia National Centre for the Plastic Arts, Paris, France Korea Photo Printing Promotion Association, Seoul, Korea Central State Archive of Film and Photo Documents, St Petersburg, Russia Museum of the New Academy of Fine Arts, Russia, St Petersburg SELECTED PERSONAL EXHIBITIONS 2018–2019 The Model: Classic and Contemporary (curated by José Manuel Springer, supported by the Sarah Vintz Foundation and the Frolov Gallery), National Museum of San Carlos, Mexico City, Mexico 2017 The Academic Tradition: St Petersburg – Madrid (curated by Semyon Mikhailovsky, with the support of the Frolov Gallery), Museum of the San Fernando Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Madrid, Spain 2016 Eight Stories (curated by Anna Shpakova), Gallery Ў (U neskladovaya), Minsk, Belarus 2016 100 Years Later (curated by Agnes Rammant), University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium 2015 Selections from Far Away From Home (with the support of the Frolov Gallery), St Petersburg Academy of Arts, St Petersburg, Russia 2014 100 Years Later (curated by Semyon Mikhailovsky, with the support of the Sputnik gallery), parallel program MANIFESTA 10 of the European Biennale of Contemporary Art, St Petersburg Academy of Arts and the Research Museum of the Russian Academy of Arts, St Petersburg, Russia 2014 Morning, St Petersburg Academy of Arts and the Research Museum of the Russian Academy of Arts, Petersburg, Russia 2013 Velocius, Altius, Fortius, ArtMost Gallery, London, UK 2012 Air Flight. Body Shock, Sputnik Gallery, New York, USA 2011 Air Flight. Body Shock, Polka Gallery, Paris, France 2010 Air Flight. Body Shock, GMG Gallery, Moscow, Russia 2007 Phiscultura (curated by Ekaterina Kondranina), Moscow International Photobiennale, Moscow Museum of Modern Art, Moscow, Russia 2006 Phiscultura (curated by Maria Jesús Andrés García), Circulo de Bellas Artes (Society of Fine Arts), Madrid, Spain 2006 Metamorphoses of the Monarch, Kremlin Museum, Nizhny Novgorod, Russia 2005 The Seasons. My Friends, Moscow International Photobiennale, Moscow Museum of Modern Art, Moscow, Russia 2005 Metamorphoses of the Monarch (for St Petersburg Early Music Festival supported by Marc de Mauny and Andrey Reshetin), Vladimir Nabokov Museum, St Petersburg, Russia 2001 Every Passion is Blind and Wild, XL Gallery, Moscow, Russia 2000 Farewell to the Winter's Tale, (supported by Irina Khmel’nitskaya), Palace of the Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich, St Petersburg, Russia SELECTED COLLECTIVE EXHIBITIONS and FAIRS 2019 European Games – European Art, National Centre for Contemporary Arts of the Republic of Belarus, Minsk, Belarus 2019 Phiscultura and Air Flight, Photofairs, Anna Nova Gallery stand, Shanghai, China 2018 Winter Tales, ART4 Museum, Moscow, Russia 2017 Air Flight, as part of the Month of Photography in Minsk, Grodno, Belarus 2016–2017 Phiscultura, Telfair Museum of Art, Savannah, Georgia, USA 2016 Every Passion is Blind and Wild in the Collection, National Center for Arts and Culture Georges Pompidou, Paris, France 2007 Metamorphoses of the Monarch and Every Passion is Blind and Wild, Cosmoscow, Gostiny Dvor, Frolov Gallery stand, Moscow, Russia 2015 Metamorphoses of the Monarch and Every Passion is Blind and Wild in Vladislav Mamyshev-Monroe exhibition Archive M, Moscow Museum of Modern Art, Moscow, Russia 2014 Phiscultura, Holden Gallery, Manchester, UK 2013 Phiscultura, Sir John Soane Country House, Pitzhanger Gallery, London, UK 2013 Air Flight, Art Palm Beach, Sputnik Gallery stand, Miami, USA 2013 In Memory of Vladislav Mamyshev-Monroe, State Russian Museum, St Petersburg, Russia 2012 Phiscultura, Museum of Modern Art, Moscow, Russia 2012 Air Flight, AHAF, Anna Nova Gallery stand, Hong Kong International Art Fair 2011 Nijinsky and Diamonds, Anna Nova Gallery, St Petersburg, Russia 2011 Nijinsky and Diamonds, Royal Academy of Arts, London, UK 2011 Albatross, State Historical Museum, Moscow, Russia 2011 Nijinsky and Diamonds, VI Tashkent International Biennale of Contemporary Art, Tashkent, Uzbekistan 2011 Air Flight, Korea International Art Fair, Anna Nova Gallery stand, Seoul, Korea 2010 Phiscultura, State Russian Museum, St Petersburg, Russia 2010 Air Flight, Moscow International Photobiennale, Moscow, Russia 2007 Metamorphoses of the Monarch, State Russian Museum, St Petersburg, Russia 2007 Phiscultura, Art Moscow, Central House of Artists, Frolov Gallery stand, Moscow, Russia 2002 Every Passion is Blind and Wild and Strength and Beauty, Moscow International Photobiennale, Central House of Artists, Moscow, Russia 2000 New Year's Celebrations and Winter Tales, Moscow International Photobiennale, Central House of Artists, Moscow, Russia BOOKS 2017 The Academic Tradition: St Petersburg – Madrid, Publishing House of the St Petersburg Academy of Arts, St Petersburg, Russia 2017 Air Flight, Prolab, Moscow, Russia 2013 Velocius, Altius, Fortius, ArtMost Foundation, London, UK 2007 Phiscultura, Turner Publishing, Madrid, Spain AWARDS 2006 First Prize of the National Olympic Committee of Russia for “The Best Project on Sport of 2006”, ProSport Magazine, Moscow, Russia