The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth denied media reports on a possibility of Shalva Amiranashvili The Fine Arts Museum, a major cultural venue in central Tbilisi, being demolished after an oppositional-minded TV station and rumors on social media indicated nefarious plans in place to remove the building.
The ministry’s firm response on social media Thursday dismissed “false information” about the museum’s fate following an article on the Mtavari Arkhi channel on Wednesday evening claiming that the ministry had “decided” to demolish the place.
In its response message, the ministry said the allegations were attempts to “cover up serious conditions. [of the building] caused by inaction “by culture officials under the former United National Movement government, alluding to links between the party – now in opposition – and the channel. The response also qualified social media reactions to the news of “false indignation”.
Releasing photographs showing the serious conditions of the site’s structural integrity, the ministry said the situation “mirrors the circumstances” of “cultural monument officials” during the UNM government between 2003 and 2012.
A glimpse of the interior of the museum in its current state. Photo via Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth.
The cultural agency also directly linked the damage to part of the building to the project launched by UNM for the establishment of a vehicle road adjacent to the museum “in a way that resulted in the fall of a part of the place “. The road project was then finalized by the Georgian Dream government in 2015.
Responding to allegations of the current ministry’s plans for the museum, the post said the intentions were to “save the museum’s unique exhibits, not demolish the museum.” The cultural agency also mentioned highlights from an engineering study it commissioned earlier this month to illustrate the building’s current condition.
Most of the public controversy on social media has come from Mtavari Arkhi’s reporting on part of the study where the company commissioned by the Ministry of Culture said that strengthening the side of the venue facing the adjacent side of Gudiashvili Street “may not be commercially viable.”.
The exterior of the building also shows signs of neglect and deterioration. Photo via Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth.
The TV station used the quote to claim that it indicated its intention to remove the museum and linked the alleged plans to private interests involved in the highly controversial Panorama Tbilisi, a $ 500 million development project being implemented. by Georgian Co-Investment Fund – created by businessman and former prime minister of Georgian dream government Bidzina Ivanishvili.
In an interview for the report, Tbilisi historian Tsira Elisashvili told the opposition channel that major construction works on a large adjacent Panorama Tbilisi hotel – underway since the mid-2010s against opposition from some town planners and part of the citizens of Tbilisi – had caused the deterioration of the structural integrity of the museum building.
The Mtavari Arkhi report also quotes a UNM deputy alleging plans to demolish the museum “for the needs of Bidzina Ivanishvili and his project”.
In April, the Musée des Beaux-Arts – housing some of the main exhibits, including iconography and religious accessories from the early Middle Ages, objects of historical architecture and monumental painting – was the subject of a announcement of the Ministry of Culture which announced its intention to restore the place.
The museum location (highlighted) is between Gudiashvili and Pushkin streets, near Freedom Square in central Tbilisi. Image of the Georgian National Museum plan for the rehabilitation of the museum.
The announcement follows a meeting in 2019 between David Lordkipanidze, director general of the network of Georgian national museums of which the Museum of Fine Arts is a part, with the architect Jean François Milou and Suzanne Ogge, Director of Heritage and International Projects at Studio Milou, on the museum’s “action plan for the rehabilitation”.
This year, GNM released its rehabilitation plan as a phased initiative scheduled between 2021-2024, starting with a building condition survey and temporarily moving its valuable exhibits to nearby GNM sites this year and ending by a conclusion of the rehabilitation of the building three years later.
Commissioned by Iakob Zubalashvili, from a family of entrepreneurs and philanthropists from 19th-century Tbilisi, the building opened in 1835 based on a project by Swiss architect Bernardacci.
Initially serving as a hotel, the place was then used for a spiritual seminar from 1840. Another hotel opened in the building in 1921, before the Museum of Fine Arts – founded by the painter and public figure Georgian Dimitri Shevardnadze – only found his home within its walls from 1950.