St Petersburg is, I think, fairly rich in street art, running the gamut from surviving Soviet-era moralistic murals to thoroughly tagged-up walls in the outer districts, from official patriotic pieces to irreverent visual subversion. Few, if any, areas of the city are sufficiently scrubbed and dull. Most of the graffiti or stencils are unauthorised and ephemeral, but some are official and are meant to last, like the Street Art Museum in my neighbourhood.
This particular stunning piece by local artist Stas Bags occupies a fire wall in a Petrograd Side courtyard. It was commissioned for the 3rd international public art festival Art Prospect in September 2014 and depicts a life-sized whale (I presume a blue whale but I can’t be sure).
According to the artist, “In St Petersburg no-one has ever seen a whale, there weren’t any here ever, but the Zoological Museum displays a whale skeleton. In my childhood, I tried to imagine a real whale whilst looking at that skeleton.”
So that’s it, it just is, eternally floating over garages and a children’s playground, like a whale about to hit the ground in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The paint is starting to flake off, but it still floats. It even caused a fit of moral panic in 2017 – local press claimed (incorrectly) that the graffiti was linked to suicide cults amongst youth.
I’d have argued that it makes for a great selfie spot but I’ve tried – my face spoils everything.