A fire engulfed the Central Exhibition Hall in Sukhum, the capital city renowned for regularly hosting exhibitions of Abkhaz and international artists.
Thousands of artworks have been destroyed in a fire that swept through the main art gallery in Abkhazia. The incident has been described as a severe blow to the cultural heritage of the separatist Georgian region.
The blaze swept through the Central Exhibition Hall on Sunday (21 January) in the city of Sukhumi, where the gallery was located on the second floor of a building.
The cause of the fire has not been determined.
Dinara Smyr, the Acting Minister of Culture, stated that “it’s as if everything has been destroyed.”
“This is an irreplaceable loss for the national culture of Abkhazia,” Smyr emphasised.
Up to 300 pieces by Alexander Chachba-Shervashidze (1967 – 1968), a significant figure in Abkhazian art, have been destroyed. Chachba-Shervashidze is noted for his production designs of operas and shows at the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, Russia, and elsewhere.
The gallery’s estimated 4,000 artworks were mostly stored in poor conditions, unprotected and jammed into small rooms and narrow halls, according to the news website Abkhaz World.
That treatment of the region’s artwork “painfully mirrors our country, plagued by criminal neglect and abandonment,” commentator Roin Agrba wrote on Abkhaz World.
Abkhazia, a region about the size of Cyprus along the Black Sea coast, came mostly under the control of separatists in 1993 after intense fighting. Georgia held a small portion of Abkhazia’s interior until the 2008 Russia-Georgia war.
Russia now stations thousands of troops in Abkhazia and recognizes it as an independent country.
Additional sources • Abkhaz World