David Kakabadze Gallery

kakabadze eng


kakabadze eng

Author: Nanuli Tskhvediani

Do you know where the most outstanding representatives of Georgian painting can meet in Kutaisi?

Certainly, in the city center at Rustaveli Avenue 8,  in the permanent exhibition of the David Kakabadze Gallery of Fine Arts, or the repository of the fund. Let’s talk about a symbolic coincidence: directly across from the gallery is the building of the first public school. In this former classical gymnasium, one of the founders of Georgian realistic painting Giorgi Maisuradze (painting teacher of Akaki, Niko Nikoladze, Niko Marie, Besarion Gogoberidze, and other notable figures) lived for many years starting in 1851. He was the first accredited Georgian portrait painter, a friend, and classmate of Repin, who taught drawing and penmanship.

Shouldn’t the creation of a treasury of fine art belong to the city which is profoundly connected to great names like Giorgi Maisuradze, David Kakabadze, Jacob Nikoladze, Petre Otskheli, Kirile Zdanevich, Felix Varla (Varlamishvili), and others?

 Indeed it should!

And they started considering this back in the 1970s in Kutaisi. A two-story building with interesting architecture in the city center, built around 1900, was deemed suitable. Mikhail Gokieli owned it, by 1911, it was already operating as his hotel “France”. The building had been used as a hotel for a long time (as mentioned in the book “Kutaisi” by M. Bulia and M. Janjalia, 2006)…

Before the opening of the Gallery of Fine Arts, extensive preparatory work was already undertaken from 1972 to 1976: the building was thoroughly renovated according to designs by architects Givi Todadze and Suliko Gagua. The Executive Committee of the City Council and various organizations purchased works by renowned Georgian artists and transferred them to the gallery for permanent possession. 

“It was a significant grassroots movement to create a center of culture,” recalls Archil Chogovadze, the gallery’s first director and its earnest advocate, Honored Artist of the Republic, years later.

“This is how the works of classic and famous artists such as Niko Pirosmanashvili, Gigo Gabashvili, Lado Gudiashvili, Davit Kakabadze, Yakob Nikoladze, Shalva Kandelaki, Aleksandre Tsimakuridze, Tamar Abakelia, Elene Akhvlediani, Ketevan Magalashvili, Nikoloz Kandelaki, Ucha Japaridze, Apollon Kutateladze, Korneli Sanadze, Elguja Amashukeli, Merab Berdzenishvili, Gogi Ochiauri, Zurab Nizharadze, Tengiz Mirzashvili, Dimitri Eristavi, Elguja Berdzenishvili, Nikoloz Ignatov, and Valerian Sidamon-Eristavi appeared in the gallery’s treasury. Before its official opening, the chairman of the art council, artist Gulda Kaladze, made a significant contribution to the creation of the gallery. It is also worth noting the great responsibility and enthusiasm of Misha Kipiani, the director of the State Gallery of Georgia, and Jemal Lolua, the famous artist,”- Mr. Archil told us.

Thus, on April 27, 1976, at 11 o’clock, the Kutaisi Fine Arts Gallery was ceremoniously opened. The Kutaisi organization of the Union of Georgian Artists and the city met this event with specially dedicated activities: an exhibition and sale of artists’ works was organized in the central garden (boulevard); in the evening, the artists’ week was solemnly concluded at the theater named after Lado Meskhishvili, followed by the touring play “Pirosmani” by the State Academic Drama Theater named after Marjanishvili.

There was great hospitality in the city: prominent figures of Georgian culture, art workers, and admirers, along with guests from neighboring cities and regions, visited Kutaisi. Both the republican and city press actively responded to the event, calling the opening of the gallery “a great cultural acquisition.”

The Chairman of the Executive Committee of the City Council, Demur Dvalishvili, after the ceremonial cutting of the ribbon, emphasized in his introductory speech, “The contribution of Gulda Kaladze, the sculptor who is now retired, is invaluable in the creation of the gallery. Famous Georgian artists, Jemal Lolua, Dimitri Eristavi, Levan Mkheidze, Gogi Ochiauri, Guram Kutateladze, Mikheil Kipiani, Revaz Tarkhan-Mouravi, and many others, lent a friendly hand to the city leadership to implement this great work. Kutaisi enterprises and construction organizations of the Republic also stood by us.”

“The exhibits in the gallery come from both established and emerging artists, but imagine the delight of retired artists who once dreamed of such a gallery existing in Kutaisi,” remarked one of the exhibition’s organizers. The gallery’s founder, Valeriani Mizandari, who also established the Kutaisi organization of the Union of Artists of Georgia and is a celebrated sculptor and Honored Artist of the Republic, expressed his gratitude to everyone who played a part in this monumental event. On this occasion, his insightful interview was published in the local Kutaisi newspaper, where he shared stories of great Georgian artists originating from Kutaisi.

On its opening day, the gallery’s collections—which include paintings, graphics, sculptures, and ceramics—featured around 360 exhibits. A decade later, this number had surged to over 1,100. According to Archil Chogovadze, subsequent years saw the formation of the city’s culture department and the Kutaisi Board of the Union of Artists of Georgia, chaired by Jeyran Pachuashvili. The Gallery of Fine Arts greatly contributed through its collaboration with the city council, systematically acquiring and progressively enriching its collections with significant works. Among these are the Imereti series and graphic landscapes from David Kakabadze’s Parisian period, graphic works by Sergo Kobuladze like “Dante” and “Shota Rustaveli”, and pieces by Irakli Gamrekeli, Farnaoz Lapiashvili, Lado Grigolia, Ekaterina Bagdavadze, and others.

In 1985, Ucha Japaridze, a People’s Artist of the USSR and State Prize laureate, gifted the gallery with Niko Pirosmani’s painting “Woman with a Veil”. A pivotal moment occurred in 1988 when the gallery was named after the eminent Georgian painter, graphic artist, theater and film visionary, art historian, and inventor of stereo cinema, Professor David Kakabadze (1889-1952).

Years have passed, and the gallery has continued to grow and flourish. Notably, in 1989, it acquired “Fruit Picking” by Felix Varla (Varlamishvili), a distinguished artist born in Kutaisi who worked internationally, along with two of his graphic works. The gallery also received sketches by Irakli Gamrekeli, a founder of Georgian theatrical painting, and works created at the international plein-air event of artists held in Kutaisi, among others.

Today, the archives boast more than 3,000 exhibits, including paintings, graphics, sculptures, and applied arts. The collection is invaluable not only for featuring the works of the finest old and modern Georgian artists but also for including European paintings brought in through international exchanges.

This gallery not only preserves art but also celebrates the rich, ongoing cultural narrative of Georgia and its connections with the wider world.

During its existence, the David Kakabadze Gallery has organized hundreds of exhibitions. Group, personal, or thematic exhibitions of local, national, and international significance have drawn attention. These events have brought many artists of different generations to our city, making their creative development known to a broader audience, as noted by professional art critics in worthy press reviews. The public has come to know and love the works of Kutaisi artists, each with their unique style. Among those whose creations are preserved in the gallery’s collection are Valerian Mizandari, Archil and Mikhail (Soso) Chogovadze, George (Gogilo) Nikoladze, Givi Todadze, Guram Kvimsadze, Guram Dolendzhashvili, Jeiran Pachuashvili, Otar Kandaria, Bernard (Franz) Nebieridze, Java Cheishvili, Akaki Kikvadze, Robert Mnatsakaniani, Rezo Ramishvili, Guram Gagoshidze, Giorgi Chkhetia, Shota Mindeli, Vitaly Kapanadze, Temur Tadumadze, Merab Giorgadze, Avtandil Abesadze, Avtandil Jakeli, Giorgi (Gogi) Lomtadze, Zaur Tsitashvili, Temur Ambroladze, Avtandil Leladze, Avtandil Amashukeli, Tamar (Baila) Cheishvili, Zurab Mgeliashvili, Tedo Manjgaladze, Avtandil Apridonidze, Tea Sulaberidze, Lali Zambakhidze, Vazha Kutateladze, Dito Shanidze, Vakhtang Khvedelidze, Zurab Janelidze, Valery Medzmariashvili, Amiran Abuladze, Amiran Lomtadze, Mamuka Tkeshelashvili, Gocha Chkhaidze, Antonio and Irakli Chogovadze, Levan Vekua, among many other talented artists from the younger generation.

Evidently, the gallery serves not just as a collection and reliable repository for selected artworks. These pieces, zealously gathered over many years, primarily belong to His Majesty—the viewer—and are intended to cultivate aesthetic pleasure and refined taste. The gallery’s attendance statistics from 2010 to last year show about 40,000 visitors, indicating that visual arts in our city enjoy substantial support from both local residents and visitors, including international tourists and those from other regions.

Thus, the city center, home to the David Kakabadze Gallery, promises to be a fascinating destination for “treasure seekers.”