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Taking a stroll along MoMA street in the heart of Sredna Gora mountain

In the folds of Sredna Goraan unorthodox open-air art gallery awaits visitors to make their boldest fantasies come true

Photo: Veneta Nikolova

Staro Zhelezare has for a long time been popular as an art village, part of a large-scale art project. Once they park their cars in the village square, visitors enter a surreal world in which the impossible is there to be seen on the walls of dozens of village houses. Because where else can one see Karl Lagerfeld with his white cat chatting to the village grannies, and Peter Deunov playing the violin to the accompaniment of Orpheus’s harp?

Right next to them the Star Wars robot C-3PO is with granny Penka, the inn-keeper, who is sitting on a swing next to Yoda. While on the village toilet on the main street there are pictures of… Princess Diana and Mister Bean.

The motor of this unique project which has turned Staro Zhelezare into a world-acclaimed art destination comes from Poland. The artistic family Katarszina and Ventsislav Piryankov have been breathing life into the village for ten years with the enthusiastic support of the villagers. He is Bulgarian and she is Polish. They live in Poznan, Poland where they have a studio and an art school, but their hearts are right here, in Sredna Gora, and more specifically in Staro Zhelezare village.

Катаржина в нейното ателие в село Старо Железаре

Every summer Ventsi and Katarszina come to live in the house that once belonged to his grandparents where they give rein to their imagination. They invite their students from Poland to teach them how to make street art on village walls. At the moment the Piryankov duo are working on their pet project – MoMA street (the Museum of Modern Art in New York, MoMA). Thanks to them the most emblematic works from the museum’s collection can be seen under the open sky, you can even touch them while taking a stroll in the narrow village streets.

“It is not just people we paint. We have an entire street here with works from MoMA,” Katarszina says. “If the people can’t go to the museum in New York to see these works, then why not have the museum come to them. We have tourists coming here on weekends, as well as organized groups, and not only from Bulgaria. In September there are usually groups from the Netherlands and Belgium, they come in their campers. I saw their guide book – there are two whole pages about Staro Zhelezare!”

Incredibly, Edvard Much’s “Scream”, Marc Chagall’s “I and the village”, works by Paul Gaugin, Rene Magritte, a host of splendid works are all here to be seen, right next to a pile of chopped wood and hens pecking at something in the road. The Piryankovs expect their students in August when the Staro Zhelezare MoMA street will be ready with new works of modern art. More pictures will be added on the walls of the village – of world celebrities, but also of the local villagers.

“All pictures are inter-connected because our project is socially-committed,” Katarszina says. “It is all about people and it offers different viewpoints and different stories. Our aim is not just decorative, we want to say something more – about utopias, about the times… We made a metal pyramid in the centre of one of the squares – a kind of magical object with four walls. Inside the pyramid are the things the village treasures most, they are symbolic – different memories, the different stories of the people here.”

Photos: Veneta Nikolova


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