Gallery fire destroys more than 4,000 artworks in Georgia’s separatist region Abkhazia

Firefighters work to put out the blaze at the National Art Gallery in Sukhumi the capital of the separatist Georgian region of Abkhazia.

Firefighters work to put out the blaze at the National Art Gallery in Abkhazia, a breakaway republic that is officially part of Georgia. 

A fire broke out at the National Art Gallery of Abkhazia — a pro-Russian separatist republic that is officially part of Georgia — in the early hours of Sunday morning, destroying at least 4,000 works of art, local state media has reported.

“Everything burned down,” Acting Minister of Culture Dinara Smyr said, according to the region’s Apsnypress news agency. “This is an irreparable loss for the national culture of Abkhazia. I am choking with tears. It is difficult for me to speak.”

Apsnypress reported that the gallery’s collection included around 300 works by Alexander Chachba-Shervashidze, an exiled painter whom the breakaway republic considers to be the “first professional Abkhazian artist.” None of his pieces are thought to have survived, said Smyr.

A view of burnt room of the National Art Gallery in Abkhazia.

A view of burnt room of the National Art Gallery in Sukhumi, Abkhazia.

The National Art Gallery is in Sukhumi, the separatist republic’s capital city. Abkhazia has declared its own government and is propped up by Russia, but is not officially recognized as a state by most countries or by the United Nations. According to Abkhazia’s State Committee for Statistics, the region’s population was around 244,000 in 2021.

The National Art Gallery’s Central Exhibition Hall caught fire overnight, and emergency services were called to the scene early Sunday morning, according to state media. By 7 a.m. local time the flames were contained, and by 11 a.m. the blaze was extinguished, Apsnypress said, adding that 11 fire brigades were called to the site from surrounding areas.

“The death of the works of art that made up the fund of the National Art Gallery is an irreparable loss for the cultural heritage of our state,” Abkhazia’s Parliament said in a statement posted on state media.

Video still shows gallery employees removing paintings after the fire.

A video still shows gallery employees removing damaged paintings after the fire.Robert Dzhpua/AP

Around 150 paintings by Abkhaz artists survived the fire, Apsnypress reported, citing Smyr. The news agency also said that Abkhazia’s Prosecutor General’s Office has opened an investigation into the cause of the blaze.

In a social media post, Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili called the fire a “tragedy for us all.”  She also criticized the region’s leadership, saying, “I deplore what is a direct consequence of the neglect of cultural identity both by the de-facto leadership and the Russian occupants.”https://botakbrewok.com/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*