MoMA transported to Bulgarian village

Staro Zhelezare has gained notoriety for graffiti depicting local people next to celebrities on the sides of its houses

Katarzyna Piryankova and Ventsislav Piryankov

There are no and could never be limitations to art. This notion is reinforced by Katarzyna Piryankova and Ventsislav Piryankov from the Polish city of Poznan, who have turned the village of Staro Zhelezare near Plovdiv into an outdoor museum, an art centre and a veritable graffiti hub. This is the only village that is a branch of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, they quip. A true avant-garde space!

For the fourth time in a row the two authors, supported by their Poznan students, use acrylic paint to create images on the sides of houses. This year an entire street is steeped in colours thanks to about 40 reproductions of works in the New York museum's fund - pieces by Chagall, Picasso, Henri Matisse, Dali, etc.

In previous editions of the street art festival, the creative duo depicted locals in the company of famous people from the fields of politics and show business. “This is one of the rare villages sporting long and high stone walls, which make for nice blanc canvases. There are no pools, beaches, its selling point is art,” Katarzyna notes. She shares that the villagers' preferences, for which personas they would like to be painted next to, vary widely - from Barack Obama, Margaret Thatcher, and Steve Jobs, to the Dalai Lama, Pope Francis, Mr Bean, etc. The Piryankov family finds an appealing note of absurdity in this, as celebrities are unlikely to turn up and chat with the locals. And yet, the old lady by the name of Velika shares a bench with Queen Elizabeth, while her spouse Lazar is shown herding the sheep together with Theresa May. Another woman at a dignified age, Stefana, shares a space with Brigitte Bardot - the former is leading a donkey, while the French actress - horses. Among the intriguing stories is that of granny Pena, depicted pushing a wheelbarrow with John Kennedy in it. Another colourful local persona is Kancho, who has two scenes to his name - one features his cow instead of him standing opposite Donald Trump, who is gesturing and seemingly trying to admonish the bovine. Kancho even got a place next to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, while his wife Ivanka is paired with Emmanuel Macron. The blue-blood fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld, a cat in his lap, appears content sitting with the old ladies of the local folk group who are armed with distaffs and knitting projects to jive with his persona.

Because of the latest reproductions of works displayed in New York, which turned the local people into something close to collectors of high-minded art for free, it has been proposed that the street where they are showcased should be called MoMA Avenue. House walls feature versions of The Sleeping Gypsy by Henri Rousseau, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon by Picasso, a self-portrait by Frida Kahlo, the pop-art Drowning Girl by Roy Lichtenstein, pieces by Gustav Klimt, etc. There is also a new symbol of the festival - the stencil of a winged pig that makes appearances here and there as a wink at Banksy.

“The fame of our village has reached the western media, the Arabic and the Indian newspapers, so tourists come here, pose for pictures in front of the walls and go for walks,” the locals say.

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