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Yuri Gagarin and Henry Moore in Cultural Exchange

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Thursday, 14 July 2011

Yuri Gagarin and Henry Moore in Cultural Exchange

As the new Yuri Gagarin statue was unveiled in London today it was revealed at the reception that a familiar London landmark will soon be leaving for the Kremlin in Moscow. One woman connects the two unique public exhibitions - Elena Gagarina, Yuri Garagin's daughter.


The Yuri Gagarin statue was unveiled this morning outside the British Council's offices on the Mall near Admiralty Arch. It is an exhibition copy of the original which stands in Lyubertsy.  


The unveiling was performed by HRH Prince Michael of Kent and Elena Gagarina in front of a large crowd of press, dignitaries, and well wishers. Perhaps the most unusual feature of the morning was a greeting delivered live and direct from the International Space Station's crew, in a reception immediately prior to the unveiling.


Elena Gagarina is not only the daughter of the the first man in space, she is also Director of the Kremlin Museums. In this capacity, she, together with the British Council have arranged for the Kremlin to have its first ever show of Modern Art.
The Henry Moore exhibition will open at the Kremlin in Feb 2012 and will feature many sculptures and drawings by the British artist. The highlight of the show will be this familiar London landmark.


This is Moore's Knife Edge Two Piece made between 1962 and 1965. It stands near the Victoria Tower at the Houses of Parliament and regularly crops up in the background of political interviews.


The international loan of such a well-known London landmark is very unusual but then the gift of a Russian memorial or monument is equally rare. Special permission was required from the Governor of Moscow and Lyubertsy authorities to make a copy of the original Gagarin statue so that Roscosmos, the Russian Space Agency, could present it as a gift to the people of Britain. It will stand in the current location for one year before moving to a permanent site.

The statue's unveiling could not have been better timed. This year marks 50 years of manned space flight and today, July 14th is the 50th anniversary of Gagarin's lunch with HM the Queen. 

Gagarin visited the UK in July 1961. The authorities were wrong-footed and underestimated the enthusiasm with which he was greeted by the British public. What was to have been a pretty low-key 2 day visit was hastily extended to 4 days and a meeting with Harold Macmillan and lunch at Buckingham Palace arranged. During that lunch the Queen gave Yuri Gagarin a present of two dolls for his daughters, Elena and Galina. I wonder if they both still have them?

There is also an accompanying exhibition celebrating 50 years of manned space flight at the British Council but I will post separately about this.

The author of this blog is a qualified City of Westminster Tour Guide who runs unique walking tours throughout Westminster, see tabs for details.

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4 Comments:

At 14 July 2011 at 22:30 , Blogger CarolineLD said...

Well, it's certainly better than another memorial gifted to London by Russia - the statue of Peter the Great at Deptford, which is just bizarre!

 
At 16 July 2011 at 10:07 , Blogger Peter Berthoud said...

Thanks Caroline. I haven't seen the Peter the Great for real but the photos do look very odd!

 
At 22 July 2011 at 19:58 , Blogger Daddysgadgets said...

I have just discovered your fascination blog via a link from Leon Daniels one.

Yuri Gargarin's visit was, I think, 1961 rather than 1951. It reminded me of jokes about Sputniks at a pantomime at the Golders Green Hippodrome I remember being taken to by trolleybus from our home in Finchley.

 
At 23 July 2011 at 09:21 , Blogger Peter Berthoud said...

Many thanks for pointing out the typo Daddysgadgets, all corrected now! I just missed out on the age of the trolleybus wish I could have experienced them.

 

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