Pop-Up Chess Palace

On Architecture, Ideology and Chess

Pop-Up Chess Palace
On Architecture, Ideology and Chess
June 22 - 25, 2017, Daily open from 12:00

ZK/U – Center for Art and Urbanistics
Siemensstraße 27
10551 Berlin

"Chess palace" may sound unusual in the Western European context. However, it did not sound special in the Soviet Union, where chess was played in its pioneer palaces, cultural houses and workers' clubs. In a few years after the October Revolution, the young Soviet Union managed to turn a "useless game of the bourgeoisie" into a sensible pastime of the working masses. After the Second World War, when Soviet chess players began to celebrate international successes, the state support for chess intensified considerably. Soviet domination in chess became an important ideological argument for the superiority of the system. In the 1970s, in addition to the existing chess clubs, the special palaces were created for chess - not in the centre though, but in the peripheral Soviet republics of Georgia, Armenia and Belarus. These buildings are distinguished by their striking architecture, sophisticated design and intelligent placement into the urban environment. 

The exhibition Pop-Up Chess Palace explores the social and architectural utopia. The archive material shows how the belief in an egalitarian idea and in the potential of modernist architecture has shaped the appearance and the interior design of the chess palaces. In their works, contemporary artists portray different aspects of chess and point out ideological implications of the past and the present.

Through her work, Nino Sekhniashvili deals with the interconnection of luck and destiny. Naili Vakhania embraces the game of state ideologies and its appearance in the cityscape of Tbilisi. Aleksander Komarov recalls the mass media echo of the longest chess championship, the match between Anatoly Karpov and Garry Kasparov in 1984. Even though the Soviet coverage significantly differed from the western one, the interest in the physical and mental condition of the players was common to both of them. In her cinematic portrait, Magdalena Pieta shows the present life and the drill of chess city - Elista, the capital of the Russian Republic of Kalmykia, built in 1998. Tatia Skhirtladze examines the emancipatory role of four Georgian female chess masters, who dominated the chess world over decades and kept the world title from 1962 to 1991 in Georgia. In the video work of Lasha Kabanashvili, the glorious past, as well as the following challenging time of Tbilisi Chess Palace and Alpine Club is played back. In their photographic work, Atu Gelovani and Lado Lomitashvili also devote themselves to the Georgian masterpiece. Their attention for details shows both, the subdued beauty and today's difficult use of the building.

The exhibition Pop-Up Chess Palace, in the framework of the German-Georgian friendship year, focuses on Tbilisi Chess Palace and Alpine Club - architecturally most demanding and ambitious one among these palaces. However, the conflicts of current use are also addressed. Accordingly, the curators of the exhibition question how to generally deal with the unique features of the modernist socialist architecture and how the ideal content of these buildings can be lived today.

Culinary and film programs accompany the exhibition. 

And, of course, chess should be played in the temporary chess palace!


∆ Thursday, June 22, 19:00
Opening of the exhibition and OPENHAUS at ZK/U

∆ Friday, June 23, 19:00
Speisekino Moabit 2017
Menu: Georgian Food
THE BREAK, Baadur Tsuladze, GE 1978, 20 min., Russian with German subtitles
DANGEROUS TRAITS, Richard Dembo, CH, F 1984, 110 min., German

∆ Saturday, June 24
, 13:00
Open Chess Tournament.
Registration 13:00 – 13:30, end: 19:30. (Limited number of participants, pre-registration is possible at: [email protected])
In cooperation with the Chess Club Rotation e.V. Berlin-Mitte

∆ Sunday, June 25, 13:00-17:00 
Chess afternoon for children

Curated by / Nini Palavandishvili and Lena Prents

Participating artists: Atu Gelovani, Lasha Kabanashvili, Aleksander Komarov, Lado Lomitashvili, Magdalena Pięta, Nino Sekhniashvili, Tatia Skhirtladze and Naili Vakhania

Chess program: Uli Huemer

For further info, please contact: [email protected]


The exhibition is funded by the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia

Pop-Up Chess Palace is realised in cooperation with ZK/U Berlin 

Nini Palavandishvili represents GeoAIR – an art initiative for collaborative projects and AIR program, Tbilisi, Georgia

Research travel of Lena Prents to Georgia and Armenia was supported by Goethe-Institut

Travel of Lado Lomitashvili to Germany is financed by ECF

'Food and Footage' is co-funded by the Creative Europe programme of the European Union and is part of the project Shared Cities: Creative Momentum (SCCM).

The Open Chess Tournament in organized in cooperation with Chess Club Rotation Berlin e.V.


Special thanks to:

Journeyman Pictures, Data Chigholashvili, Anne Fenk, Germane Gudushauri, Aleksandar Jurgec, Jesse Quinn

PHOTO: Tbilisi Chess Palace and Alpine Club, 1980s © G. Chubinashvili National Research Centre for Georgian Art History and Heritage Preservation