D137 Gallery, D137 Art Club

Art Club D137 dates back to 1996, when it opened as a contemporary art gallery D137, which later became a cult gallery. During this period, about 200 exhibitions were opened, interesting conferences and concerts were held, and numerous catalogs were published. D137 now continues to work actively and in 2024 opened the FABLE association (France. Art. Beauty. Freedom of Expression).

History of gallery

D137 was founded in St. Petersburg  in 1996. The name of the gallery comes from the loading dock, which was  located on Krestovsky Island, where the first exhibitions and concerts were held. Since 2000, the gallery had been working on Nevsky Prospect in the house 90-92, where in the famous cellar with brick walls for ten years there were interesting exhibitions and events – personal exhibitions of Timur Novikov, George Guryanov, Vladislav Mamyshev – Monroe, Edward Lucie-Smith, Ronnie Wood (The Rolling Stones) and others. Among the artists of the gallery are well-known masters, whose works are in the largest museum and private collections, as well as young St. Petersburg authors. In 2010, transformed into the Art Club D137 and, along with exhibition activities, conducts various artistic (including charitable) actions, round tables, film shows dedicated to contemporary art, creative meetings with artists and cultural figures, concerts, publishes catalogs and books on art.

Director – Olga Osterberg

Exhibitions on the D137 loading dock

The D137  first exhibition took place in 1996 and showed the works of St Petersburg underground artists. Later, D137 held more art shows, musical evenings, and meetings with artists.Those were one-day events, the gallery wasn’t public, one could only visit by prior appointment.

Among the most interesting events of those years were the exhibition “Mitki Revolution”, dedicated to the 80th anniversary of the October Revolution, and an exhibition dedicated to the 100th anniversary of psychoanalysis that was visited by a delegation of American psychoanalysts. Timur Novikov held the Ball of the New Academy of Fine Arts “East West”

D137 on Nevsky Prospect

D137’s first exhibitions were groping for identity. The most interesting events was putting Dmitry Kaminker’s sculpture of an Egyptian goddess in front of the gallery entrance in 2000. Wrapped in a transparent film: inside it, there was a blue backlight, and in the dark, extra light was projected from a nearby building. It looked great, particularly on the Nevsky prospect.

D137’s collaboration with Timur Novikov started with the Neoacademic exhibition entitled St Petersburg Light Drawing in 2001. It was followed by a few roundtable discussions, exhibition The Image of Timur Novikov in the Russian Art of the Last Third of the 20th Century, and Timur’s last exhibition while alive, Air Navigation and Sea Navigation. D137 have shown most of the artists of the New Academy and those close to it: Olga Tobreluts, Egor Ostrov, Aidan Salakhova, Andrey Medvedev, Edward Lucie-Smith, Stas Makarov, Mikhail Rozanov, Alexandra Fedorova, and others.

Georgy Guryanov, an artist and a musician of the legendary Kino band, was a special friend of the gallery. D137 held three of his personal shows and organize his exhibition at the XL Gallery in Moscow. Guryanov’s art was shown, with great success, at the international art fairs in Moscow and Berlin.

With the help of the XL Gallery, D137 have held two solo exhibitions of Vladislav Mamyshev-Monroe and exhibitions of Oleg Kulik and Konstantin Zvezdochetov.

The gallery constantly worked with Sergey Sergeyev, Georgy Guryanov, as well as with young artists – Julia Kosulnikova, Sergei Sapozhnikov, Marina Fedorova and others.

D137 took active part in international art fairs, such as Art Manezh in 2000, Art Moscow in 2000–2007 and 2008 (in the parallel program), Art Forum Berlin in 2002, Arte Fiera in 2006 (Bologna, Italy), Art Vilnius in 2009 (Lithuania).

The gallery worked a lot with artists-musicians. In 2007, during the tour “The Rolling Stones” in St. Petersburg, in D137 was an exhibition of Ronnie Wood, the artist and the famous guitarist “The Rolling Stones”. It was Ronnie Wood who chose the gallery D137 as the venue for the exhibition. Also there were exhibitions of Nikolai Kopeikin, musician of the group NOM, and two exhibitions of media artist, musician and psychic Pakhom (Sergei Pakhomov).

Apart from many outstanding exhibitions, D137 gallery organized film screenings, art book presentations, roundtable discussions, and meetings with artists. Afterwards, gallery often released materials of those discussions, compiled exhibition catalogues, and published books. The gallery was recognized by the State Russian Museum for ‘its essential contributions to the St. Petersburg contemporary art division,’ D137’s assistance was acknowledged by the young artists contest Orientiry, D137 were awarded diplomas of the Sergei Kuryokhin International Festival (SKIF) and the New Academy of Fine Arts.

Among the numerous visitors of D137 were musicians Bryan Ferry, David Byrne, PJ Harvey, cult directors Ios Stelling, Alexander Sokurov and Alexei German, actress Helen Mirren and film director Taylor Heckward.

In 2002, the gallery was recognized as the best institution of the year in the “Review of the artistic life of St. Petersburg”, and also, the newspaper “Izvestia” awarded the D137 the second place in the rating of the best art projects of the year.

D137 actively collaborated with foreign art institutions, including Goethe-Institut, the Nordic Countries Institute, and the consulates of Great Britain, Finland, Germany and the USA, as a result of which the city saw a number of unique projects.

Gallery D137 has gratitude from the Consul General of Germany Ulrich Schöning for support of the project of the General Consulate for the promotion of contemporary art in St. Petersburg in Germany, as well as from Consul General of France Pascal Mober.

Art Club D137

In 2010, D137 changed its concept and became Art Club D137, going beyond the limits of the gallery operation and staring projects in various art-related fields: publishing, art therapy, music, etc.

In 2011, D137 changed its address and completed a few unfinished projects at the premises on Zvenigorodskaya street. The most interesting  were the exhibitions of Sergeev Sergey, Grigory Yushchenko, collection of Artemy Troitsky, and the photo and film screening dedicated to Marlene Dietrich.

Artemy Troitsky suggested regard D137 as a club of extracontemporary art, meaning that D137 shouldn’t limit ourselves to current time but be free to make choices.

Art remains the main direction of D137. It’s all about creativity, research, and singularity no matter what other people or curators may expect.

It is due to the club format that D137 was able to implement the Kresty project, an investigative exhibition focused on freedom and non-freedom, faithfulness and treason, truth and lie. The exhibition took place at the Kresty prison in St. Petersburg and addressed the inmates and guards alike. There were reports that the prison atmosphere mitigated significantly for a month after the opening.

Sergeev Sergey’s Captcha was another event worth mentioning, as it was also the presentation of psychiatry professor Viktor Samokhkvalov’s book Philosophical Intoxications, as well as the ongoing research project “Bowiemaniya”, which began in 2017 and  dedicated to the memory of the great musician.

Contemporary art gallery D137 takes its name from a loading dock on the Srednyaya Nevka river. First parties to gather exponents, clients and regular visitors to the gallery-to-be were held there. It was also at this loading dock that the gallery’s art collection started. Supported by a few private initiatives of practical character, this ark helped St Petersburg art to stay up in the difficult 1990s. Having come out of the ark, its former inhabitants, as if thus had been established by some covenant, multiplied and increased in number upon the dried grounds. The gallery opened on Nevsky prospect and the Foundation for Support of Non-commercial Art Projects set up, a stable community of artists and interested parties formed around them allowing for further expansion. At the moment, the gallery is actively penetrating into various well-established international exhibition grounds.

However, to gain the full understanding of its achievements, one should be aware of the specific situation any St. Petersburg-based gallery finds itself in. D137 appeared after the first, romantic, period in the history of Russian galleries – a very short but extremely eventful one – was already over. This history was a completely new development and its chronicle was largely shaped in Moscow.

Young Moscow-based activists of the newborn gallery business appeared to be mature enough to formulate their functions, discretion and objectives. There were lots of tasks since the field still remained untilled. Most importantly, it was necessary to plant the very idea of contemporary art into public consciousness. Furthermore, contemporary art was in need of socialization. Finally, galleries were to establish hierarchies within the body of contemporary art itself. Although at first they followed the already set hierarchies (set either by artists themselves or by other Moscow conceptualism activists), they finally knocked down the flags and introduced new names and phenomena into the newly formed contemporary art arena. In the historic perspective, the first phase of contemporary art galleries’ activities looks like an integrate discourse with its own consistently used language, unified audience and common informational, operational and functional fields. The complex of tasks these galleries were to carry out was completed. Objectives that required several post-war decades to be achieved in the west were set and partially attained in Russia within shortest possible time (the partial character of Russian achievements being largely due to the country’s poor economic conditions).

On the one hand, this eased it up for D137 since the type of a multifunctional contemporary art gallery that balances its activities between culture and commerce has been already shown to the public and put into practice. On the other hand, this made it more difficult since due to its success and the aforementioned integrity the Moscow art discourse was aggressive and aimed at expansion. For obvious economic reasons the gallery business in St Petersburg was underdeveloped by contrast to the museum activities (with regard to the representation of contemporary art St Petersburg museums were far ahead of those based in Moscow).
For D137, this brought in a great temptation to copy approaches of Moscow-based galleries and to accept the role of a minor. Respectively, attempts of withstanding such temptation were fraught with danger of choosing an unequal and patently obsolete alternative since the traditionalist myth was always extraordinarily powerful in the city.

The gallery’s first exhibitions betrayed its search of identity. D137 was groping for its own niche and subject. Naturally enough, Olga Kudryavtseva (O. Osterberg) turned her attention to the artists that had become well-known during the underground period, namely Elena Figurina, Valentin Gerasimenko, Sergeyev Sergey, Anatoly Vasiliev, Mit’kis, etc. Still important for the gallery, such historic non-conformist accent (quite sensible despite the fact that all non-conformist veterans showed their new works) proved to be insufficient as a strategy. Another long-term and stable trend was found in the representation of the psychoanalytic vector of St. Petersburg culture. D137 organized exhibitions and conferences in collaboration with East-European Institute of Psychoanalysis as well as independently from this institution. From the very beginning the gallery found it essential to create international context for its activities, which brought about shows of contemporary Japanese art and prompted collaboration with German and Finnish art institutions. However, the gallery’s creative and city-specific identity was shaped by its particular attention to the new Russian classicism and the figure of Timur Novikov. By now it has become evident to be a fact of cultural history and not just a claim that St Petersburg art of the 1990s was marked by the practice and ideology of the New Academy that transformed into the new Russian classicism conception towards the end of the decade.

Quite radically and pathetically, Timur Novikov established the cult of the beautiful, the sublime and the classical, a priori extraneous to the postmodernist mentality, as a new aesthetic guide.

Naturally, the cult practiced by the master and his adherents was variable and multidimensional, incorporating the Apollonian beauty of the antiquity and all its derivatives from the Renaissance ideal to its imperial variations down to the academism of the XXth century’s totalitarian empires. However, this cult also covered mannerism and all ‘decadent’ versions of the beautiful regularly recurring in European culture. Thus, the cult of the beautiful could easily cover its kitsch and camp types that has been so popular in recent art, particularly in the works of Jeff Koons and Pierre and Giles. Though, most engaging for neoacademism was decadence as such marked by the figures of Oscar Wilde and Wilhelm von Gloeden that were visually and symbolically iconized by Timur Novikov.

Novikov was perhaps the only St. Petersburg artist who succeeded in maintaining a viable alternative to conceptual and post-conceptual projects that were consistently developing at the time in Moscow. Novikov was the type of a representator in art capable of shaping a coherent movement out of the multitude of individual artistic wills. Moreover, this movement would be accepted by both artists and the public as the vector they wanted to follow in order to make a secure lodgment in the changeable world of contemporary art.
Novikov was a Diaghilev-type personality whose consciousness was historically complexified by the experience of Pavel Filonov and Kazimir Malevich with their prophetic cult, ambitions for better life-arrangements and the passion for new institutions establishment. Though, since Novikov wasn’t lacking in humour, such historical complexities caused no further complications for him.

Having started with Novikov, D137 had to formulate its own strategy with respect to his artistic and prophetic activities. Timur was himself a great representator. The gallery could have become a sheer tool of his representational pursuits. However, D137 was not to be satisfied with the role of a tool. Rather, it wanted to represent the representator. The gallery’s further exhibitions and activities proved these ambitions realistic and realized.

D137 showed Novikov’s projects and organized a homage exhibition of his portraits. Exhibition St Petersburg Light Painting turned out a successful project recorded in the city’s cultural memory. In the search for artistic methods appropriate to his doctrine, Novikov carried out a sort of inspection of retro-techniques and outdated technologies. This inspection generated vivid interest in old pictorial techniques of photo-printing shared by a considerable group of artists. The exhibition brought this interest to the foreground of artistic life and marked it as an important trend in contemporary photography. However, what remained of primary significance for the gallery was demonstration of outgrowths of Novikov’s aesthetics that would thrust their own ways in art and submit this aesthetics to various critical procedures. This resulted in the exhibitions of Georgy Gurianov, Olga Tobreluts and Vladik Mamyshev-Monroe whose works are genetically related to the new Russian classicism but follow independent lines of development. Another hobby-horse of the gallery is search for phenomena bearing no institutional or chronological relation to the new Russian classicism but somehow articulating its presence in contemporary art. Here, it is not genetic ties that work as the means of exhibitional representation but certain cultural myths and rhymes. Shows of Moscow-based artists Aidan Salakhova and Alexandra Vertinskaya as well as that of British art critic and photographer Edward Lucie-Smith are examples of this very tactic.

It has been for ten years already that D137 is pounding away on its own line, this line proving to be much richer than representation of the new Russian classicism and related art phenomena. The gallery has been flexible enough in its choice of allies having created unions with Aidan and XL galleries, which resulted in the shows of Oleg Kulik and Konstantin Zvezdochetov. The gallery is looking for new names and finding them. In this respect, Marina Fedorova’s debut seems to me a promising one. Finally, as it has been already mentioned, D137 is actively penetrating important international exhibition grounds. All in all, it has been performing regular cultural functions of an advanced contemporary art gallery. It is quite a different story that we have very few advanced art galleries in St. Petersburg.

Alexander Borovsky
Director of the Department of Contemporary Art, the State Russian museum. 2006

I first met Olga Kudryavtseva (Osterberg) some five years ago, first in her Gallery to which Aidan Salakhova introduced me to in St. Petersburg, and the next summer on her husband’s houseboat where Tho-mas Krens and Guggenheim trustees assembled to celebrate their white nights around a red coloured grand piano.

D137 is one of two Galleries in the Rus-sian Capital of the North which people and art lovers in the west talk about. Many galleries come and go but Olga has a surprising acumen and a discer-ning taste and I fondly remember seeing exhibitions of works from the legendary Timur Novikov (several), Oleg Kulik, Alexandra Vertinskaya, Georgy Gurianov, Edward Lucie-Smith, Aidan Salakhova and Vladik Mamyshev-Monroe.

D137 was present many times at art fairs in Europe; the Gallery is a real player in the contemporary Russian art world and I heartily congratulate Olga on the tenth anniversary of her some-what hidden Gallery on Nevsky Prospekt and we all wish her a continuation of the merited success.

Nicolas V. Iljine
Director Corporate Development Europe & Middle East
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation

To congratulate D137 on its tenth anniversary I thought of compiling a ten-item list of its merits but since it turned out that such a list should be much longer to quadrate with facts, I decided to list the gallery’s three historical accomplishments. First, having chosen St. Petersburg’s most significant artist, Timur Novikov, as its hero, D137 organized several exhibitions of his works and published his lectures. Second, D137 represents a lot of well-known St. Petersburg-based artists in Moscow and in the west and does it perfectly and on the regular basis. Third, D137 accomplishes educational functions that should normally be carried out by museums and organizes solo-shows of such renowned representatives of the Moscow art scene as Konstantin Zvezdochetov and Vladislav Mamyshev-Monroe. To mix in my personal impressions, I would use the occasion to thank the gallery for its neatly and democratically organized meetings of the choicest art public.

Ekaterina Andreeva
Leading research assistant of the Department of Contemporary Art, the State Russian museum. 2006

D137 gallery is a perfect partner.

Elena Selina, XL gallery. 2006

The D137 gallery is our choice for contemporary art in St. Petersburg. Two wonderful Sergeyev Sergey paintings from D137 set the tone in our new New York Apartment.

Taylor Hackford & Helen Mirren. 2006

I’ve visited a plenty of art galleries in my life, but none of them are as cosy and vibrant as Petersburg’s D137. Most modern galleries are somewhat cold, functional, all-white and lit like hospitals… They never call themselves «home», they call it «space». Many Russian galleries, on the contrary, look like old bachelor’s pad – stuffed and chaotic. D137 is somewhere in between and has the best of two worlds: the soulful and ultra-friendly character of a Russian arts hangout and style and expertise of a European gallery. Most of the time the gallery had been located at a cellar of a historic 18th century building in Nevsky Prospekt. Truly a beautiful place, albeit rather narrow, and famous for its’ intimate and loud opening parties, perfectly masterminded by the gallery’s founder and owner, Olga Osterberg.

Apart from the unbeatable atmosphere, D137 is equally loved for the quality of expositions. I’m not sure the gallery has a well-formulated esthetic concept or preference of particular styles – it always has been very eclectic – but all the exhibitions I have seen there did had something in common. They had always represented real talent – no matter how well – or little-known and expensive, and catered to sincere and open-minded art lovers, not trendy curators or cultural functioneers. These exhibitions were heart-warming, funny, provocative and never boring. Yet there always had been the tiny director’s room, where on could squeeze in, sit on somebody’s knees and have a glass of red wine.

The magic of D137 has been created and curated by the gallery’s spiritus ego, Olga Osterberg. Like all great gallerists, she possesses immaculate taste and fine intuition, plus selfless devotion to the artists and skill of gathering good people around her. And she herself is a really good person indeed! Nowadays, the D137 operation has drastically reduced, and that’s a truly worrying symptom for the local art scene, indicating apathy on both artists’ and collectors’ sides. I hope, though, that Olga’s unique art gallery will survive, enjoy glorious revival, and the good times will roll again, wherever under grey St.Petersburg it happens!

Artemy Troitsky,  journalist and musical critiс. 2018

D137 represents the proud St. Petersburg tradition of artistic innovation, combined with an adherence to classical values prompted by the history and architecture of one of the world’s most beautiful cities. It was a great honor to be able to present an exhibition of my photographs within this distinguished context.

Edward Lucie-Smith
Art historian and author of numerous books on contemporary art. 2006

D137 is a work of art itself and also a meeting point, like Saigon used to be. Coming there for the first time – we can’t remember when – the place felt familiar, that was at once an anxious and peaceful experience. It looked like an ordinary gallery reigned by a strict Queen and an exemplary artistic King. But the Queen radiated with warmth you won’t expect from a royalty, and the King was a show put up by a Frail White Duke. The gallery’s exhibition policy has the same duplicity. D137 doesn’t follow the trend, but creates it, displaying fashionistas as hooligans (in a good way), exposing the vulnerable souls of hardcore hooligans, and making everyone believe that art business is not a business, but art itself.

Marina Kronidova, art critic
and Mikhail Trofimenkov, writer and historian. 2018

Before “a must see” became a popular expression in Russian, residents of St. Petersburg had been already using it to describe events at D137.

In the early 2000s, D137 was not just a trendy place that every art lover had to visit, it was a true cultural center.

High-quality projects and artistic community around them, unusual and high-profile personae made the gallery a trendsetting facility, the territory where new names were born and new fashions shown. The ideologist of the gallery Olga Osterberg
has created a unique environment where different kinds of artists could blossom: big, rare, hardboiled, or delicate. Their statements are always respected, whatever their artistic style is. This fundamental principle has made D137 a phenomenon bigger that a particular address, which can say a lot about its time.

Olga Razina
author and producer of TV projects. 2018