Theodora Clarke is an art historian, critic, lecturer and curator. She is founder and editor of Russian Art and Culture and publishes the guide to the bi-annual Russian Art Week in London. Theodora is a popular and frequent commentator on the arts in national and international press including TV, print and radio. She previously worked at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and Christie’s.
She recently published a book called Boris Chetkov: Re-imagining Russia and she curated Abstraction/Construction for the Maslenitsa Festival in London, as well as an exhibition of contemporary Russian art for Russian Art Week.
If there was one piece of art you could feature in, which would it be and why?
One of my favourite places to visit in Florence is the Brancacci Chapel in the Santa Maria del Carmine. Every wall is covered with rows of beautiful narrative frescoes by Masaccio, Masolino and Fillipo Lippi. The great Italian Renaissance painters often inserted images of their patrons or modeled their figures on well-known contemporary people. I think it would have been wonderful to be inserted as a small character into one of these bold, colourful scenes busting with life and humanity.
Who inspires you and why? An artist, a family member, someone current or historical?
I think I am inspired as much by art as by literature. I read a huge amount of fiction, both historical and contemporary, and in my job I get to meet many living artists. I love visiting artists in their studios to see them surrounded by their creative experiments, studies, sketchbooks or the objects they collect.
I also enjoy visiting museums of writers, composers or artists. In Russia, where I have travelled many times, there are hundreds of these very small house museums. You can see the desk where Tolstoy wrote War and Peace or the study where Pushkin wrote his great poetry. There is a great sense of history when you stand in these places and I believe you get closer to a better understanding of these great cultural figures and their work.
What are your cultural aspirations? What do you still want to see, do and achieve?
I believe that art is an integral and essential part of daily life; culture is often how we experience the world. People travel abroad to visit museums, galleries, palaces, theatres and music halls.
We live in an increasingly interconnected world. The internet has had a revolutionary effect on the arts. I can interview an artist living in Siberia or Australia on Skype, which would not have been possible even twenty years ago. The Google Art Project has also been incredible as a way of opening up the largest museums in the world; you can sit in London on your laptop but take a virtual tour of a gallery in other cities on the other side of the globe.
I believe that knowledge and culture should be shared and that is what I have always aimed to do with my own arts project including websites, writing, lecturing and curating exhibitions. All of these channels are different ways of sharing and opening up culture to the general public and ensuring that these experiences engage with as many people as possible.
What are your favourite cultural cities in the world and why?
Well I am probably biased as I live in London! But I do think that it is an extraordinary city, which is always buzzing with new cultural projects. You could go out every single night and see a completely different play, concert or exhibition as there are so many fascinating companies working here. I love that you can go from a very traditional play at say the National Theatre of a classical Greek drama to the next day seeing an immersive theatre production set in a warehouse on the edge of the city. I use the app Yplan when I want to buy a last minute ticket for a cultural show and go straight from the office to see something new.
I also love New York, which is the 24 hour city. If you walk down museum mile, which is on 5th Avenue, you can go past nine museums which range from the Neue Galerie to the Guggenheim. The whole spectrum of life and the arts is there that you can see by walking from 82nd street to 105th street.
What are you up to at the moment and where can we find it?
Currently I am finalising plans for Russian Art Week in London. We have a programme of cultural events happening across the city from May 29th- 5th June including sales at the major auction houses, exhibitions, talks and more. You can download your free guide at www.russianartweek.co.uk.
When that is over, which is a very busy week in the calendar, then I want to see the new Sonia Delaunay exhibition at Tate Modern. She is an extraordinary female Russian painter who worked with the Orphic Cubists and experimented with abstraction. In June I head to see the Venice Bienale and I am excited to visit the new Russian and British Pavilions.