A century-old artistic cafe in Georgia’s capital Tbilisi has been reimagined with New Kimerioni, a venue set to host performances, exhibitions and collaborations in the city.
Unveiled within the space of the Shota Rustaveli State Drama Theatre on Monday, the location is seen as a means to benefit the development of local contemporary audio and visual art scene.
Organisers of the project — which looks back at the city’s rich background of active artistic meetings and exchange in public spaces — also noted another role for the new venue.
Print artists work in a space of the cafe at the opening. Photo: Rustaveli Theatre.
New Kimerioni will seek to bring together emerging talent from three artistic institutions in Tbilisi — the Shota Rustaveli Theatre and Film Georgia State University, the Tbilisi State Conservatoire and the State Academy of Arts.
Some of the students from these institutions were present at the celebratory unveiling to perform for visitors.
Performances and shows included a sound installation by artist Max Machaidze, lighting projection by Giorgi Meladze as well as drawing, painting and poster art by the Academy of Arts students.
Other displays featured works by a contemporary graphics collective with artists Nino Injia and Leila Grigolia, who use special print devices to create artwork.
The location is seen as a space for audio and visual art installations, displays and performances. Photo: Rustaveli Theatre.
The location selected for the new cafe — which is hosting these and other artists for the next nine days — has been chosen with a historical reference.
Cafe Kimerioni, an early 20th century Tbilisi spot, was located on a lower storey of today’s Rustaveli Theatre building.
First established as the Artist Cafe in 1919, the space quickly became a favourite socialising and creative destination for artists in the newly born independent republic of Georgia, which proclaimed its sovereignty in 1918.
The interior of the venue, which was renamed to Kimerioni shortly after its founding, was painted by artists from Georgia and the former Imperial Russia.
A corner of the Contemporary Graphics Centre, photographed at the opening. Photo: Rustaveli Theatre.
These ranged from set designer Sergey Sudeikin to avant-gardist Kiril Zdanevich and celebrated painters Lado Gudiashvili and David Kakabadze.
Hosting its first "artistic evening” involving Georgian writers in December 1919, the cafe went on to welcome meetings themed around literature and reviews of new works by poets and authors.
Local and foreign singers and dancers were also welcomed to a small stage of the venue.
The legacy of Kimerioni and the artists that spawned an eruption of avant-garde creativity in the three-year democratic republic is now held in special regard by artistic circles in Georgia.
The new cafe has been opened at a space of the Rustaveli Theatre, in a historical nod to the original spot. Photo: Rustaveli Theatre.
Many of the artists that met, performed and debated at the location also represented the leading 20th century Georgian currents in fields of visual and stage art, design and more.
A reenactment of the venue was held in Tbilisi last month, during celebrations of the centennial of the founding of the First Democratic Republic.
The original Kimerioni closed down due to "commercial losses” in 1922, a year following Georgia’s occupation by the Soviet armies.