Introducing Katerina Belkina. The Berlin-based Russian grew up in Samara. With a population of about one million people, Samara is still considered somewhat provincial by Russian standards. By the time Katerina had reached her teenage years, she knew that she would want to leave the Soviet country one day.
After high school Katerina didn’t see much of an opportunity for her to attend art school in St. Petersburg or Moscow. “It was the nineties and much of Russia was in state of disaster,” Katerina says reflecting on the unstable times of the Perestroika. “It was too dangerous to go away. People were killing each other in the streets.” Inevitably Katerina studied art in Samara. Afterwards she stayed a little longer in order to start working in a publishing house. “It was around that time that I gave birth to my daughter. I was 22 years old.” At her first job she was to learn all about computers. “As a creative person, naturally I was keen to grow,” Katerina goes onto explain that it came to a point where she couldn’t stay in Samara any longer, “Everybody wanted to go to Moscow back then. Moscow was Russia’s New York.” So in 2002 she finally left her hometown for the Russian capital.
In Moscow she worked as a freelancer for advertisement agencies. On top of that she’d already managed to make a name for herself in several Russian online photography communities that were popular among the country’s leading artists. There she met two of her closest friends: acclaimed Russian artist Oleg Dou and Anton Belov, who is now director of the Garage Museum in Moscow. “We were like a gang,” the artist recalls with a laugh, “we organized all kinds of exhibitions together – in Moscow, St. Petersburg and across the country.”
In 2007 the young group of artists were nominated for the renowned Kandinsky prize. “We were suddenly amongst all these incredibly famous and amazing artists, some of whom had been working for more than 20 years. Everything had suddenly changed for us!” The posse of best friends gained worldwide recognition. A Dutch gallery caught Katerina’s attention and went on to represent the rising young artist. At this point she decided to quit her freelance work and devote myself to work as an artist. It became increasingly clear that she would need to relocate to Europe. “Even though we’re connected via the internet and just a two-hour flight, the split between Europe and Russia remains very large. It’s like another planet!” the Russian artist laughs. Katerina shares her thoughts on what it takes to be successful as an artist, explaining that you need to be present at events, show yourself at exhibitions and be personally available in terms of communications within the industry. In addition, there are many material obstacles that arise living away from the industry hubs, such as the costly transportation of art, which also tends to be also very complicated logistically.
Katerina finally moved to Berlin in 2013, as soon as her daughter had completed high school in Russia. “I had many friends in Berlin and just fell in love with the city.” A little later she met art manager Karsten Meißner with whom she is now married. Together they live and work in the city’s northern district of Weissensee, formerly part of East Berlin. “Berlin reminds me of Moscow,” Katerina tells me. “It feels like home but it’s more European. This feeling of belonging home is what I enjoy most about it Berlin, because Moscow never felt like home to me.”
Katerina Belkina is presenting her complete works in a single exhibition in Berlin for the first time. The exhibition will run at the Direktorenhaus Museum für Kunst Handwerk Design in Berlin from the 3rd until the 26th February 2017. To find out more about the exhibition click here.