ART NOUVEAU ERA IN GEORGIA
At the beginning of the 20th century, during the Art Nouveau era, politics in Georgia were directly controlled by the capital of the Empire, Saint Petersburg, and Russian influence was evident. Despite all this, Tbilisi's privileged location by the Black Sea, between Europe and Asia - that is, a city-bridge between two continents - helped to bring Art Nouveau inspired architecture, an unquestionable image of internationalism and modernity that was called "Modern Style" in Georgia.
Moreover, this will to be modern determined that new materials and building techniques would be introduced with new forms, such as wrought iron and cement. At the same time, however, Art Nouveau in Georgia incorporated many local elements and was not a simple copy of European models.
The new style was widespread. Most of the buildings are residential blocks, but there are also public buildings, such as schools, banks, hospitals, industrial buildings, small shops, factories, entertainment centres, theatres and cinemas. On the other hand, it is also worth emphasising the great widespread social use of the applied and decorative arts, furniture, wrought iron work and decorative painting, etc.
The architect that best represents the movement is Simon Kldiashvili, who was trained in Russia and for whom documentation exists linking him to various works. It is also worth mentioning the large mansions built by prestigious industrialists like David Sarajishvili, a producer of cognac, or the trader Alexander Chavchanidze. But the designers of these works are unknown.
Tbilisi has a valuable Art Nouveau heritage that has recently begun to be recovered, but it still lacks in-depth research study and its buildings are in a poor state of repair. The reasons for this are twofold. First, this Art Nouveau heritage was undervalued during Soviet times because of its bourgeois nature. And second, the new republic has dedicated most of its intervention work to saving its extremely valuable Medieval heritage in the region.
The most outstanding buildings are the Art Nouveau cinemas. The arrival and spread of Art Nouveau architecture and motion pictures took place simultaneously, and these two innovative art forms enjoyed great success in Georgia. A good example is the Apollo Cinema, an Art Nouveau movie theatre built in Tbilisi in 1909. Another cinema (now the Music Centre) was built there in 1914, but only the entrance hall and small parts of the façade remain today. In the middle of the twentieth century, two Art Nouveau movie theatres - Mon Plaisir in Kutaisi and the Apollo in Batumi - were destroyed. Only the Apollo Cinema has been preserved in its original form.
The Apollo, which continued to be used as a cinema during the Soviet period, is an architectural monument of national importance. It has been in private ownership for several years, but it is nonetheless neglected and unprotected.
Tbilisi City Council started work on the rehabilitation of the buildings on David Agmashenebeli Avenue, and among these is the Apollo.
The importance of this building needs to be recognized by its owners and by Georgian society, particularly specialists in the protection of historic monuments. The Apollo must be carefully restored, preserved and used once again as a cinema.