Astana is a city on the rise – literally and figuratively. Its stunning modern architecture is rising from the vast Asian steppe as its international reputation as a center of regional trade and politics grows along side. The same is true of the city’s arts culture. The venues and the art you will find here reflect the history of Kazakhstan while pushing the boundaries of what came before.
Among the most stunning examples is Astana’s new Kazakhstan Central Concert Hall. This 3,500 seat hall sits inside a stunning turquoise blue building of swirling lines and changing vistas designed by Manfredi Nicoletti following an international design competition. It’s one of the largest halls of its kind in the world and is the setting for frequent performances ranging from visiting opera troupes to traditional Kazakh music.
Also reflecting Astana’s cutting edge arts culture is the city’s Modern Art Gallery. The gallery is located in the now iconic Palace of Peace and Harmony, often referred to as the Pyramid. This open-style granite and glazed glass pyramid was designed by renowned British architecture firm Foster and Partners and opened in 2006 to host the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions. It’s a site to see in and of itself and its central point marks the exact center of the city. But the pyramid is also home to multiple art galleries where you can see the works of modern Kazakh painters such as K.V. Mullashev, Akanaev and Begalin. The main gallery includes more than 100 paintings and 19 sculptures.
More traditional arts can be found in the Maxim Gorky Russian Drama Theater. This theater was founded in 1899 and is one of the largest and most popular drama theaters in Central Asia. It regularly presents performances of William Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams, Anton Chekhov, Nikolai Gogol and others.
Whether it is a taste of traditional performance, a glimpse into the mind of modern Kazakh artists or appreciation of the architecture of the art venues themselves, Astana offers a unique arts culture in the heart of the Asian Steppe.
Alzhir Memorial Museum of Victims of Political Repressions and Totalitarianism
On May the 31st, 2007, the Alzhir Museum opened at the location of the former Akmolinsky camp of “Wives of the traitors of the Motherland.” It memorializes the tragic events of Soviet rule, including the dark times of the 1930s – 1950s. The year 2007 was chosen as the museum’s opening date for its meaning to Kazakhstan and former Soviet countries. It was the 90th anniversary of the October Revolution and the 70th anniversary of the beginnings of the “mass political terror.” During this period 100,000 civilians innocent lost their lives. In Kazakhstan, every May 31st is a day of remembrance for the victims. The memorial complex is a moving experience with many exhibits. English language tours and translations are provided.
American Corners & Cultural Centres in Kazakhstan
“American Corner” has been launched at the National Academic Library in Astana, and it’s a gold mine for anyone, of any age, who is interested in practicing English and learning about the United States. You’ll find English-language collections of American fiction, and reference books on U.S. government, history, and culture. Visitors also can learn more via Internet access, audio recordings, and American films and documentaries. For English teachers, extensive materials and English-teaching curriculums are on hand. The centre also hosts myriad events and clubs for children and adults. Among them are a discussion & debate club, music club, reading club, movie viewing club, and Kids’ Hour. Also featured are local and U.S. guest lecturers dedicated to certain events. Regular Saturday events are: “Movie-nights” at 17.00; “Discussion Club” at 15.00; and “Reading club” at 16.00.
Open to the public.
“Atameken: A Walking Map of Kazakhstan
Don’t have time to travel through all of Kazakhstan? Then stroll through the “Atameken,” a 1.7 hectare, outdoor map you can walk through that essentially is an outdoor museum feting the country’s history, culture and development. See miniaturizations of every Kazakh city, including famous buildings, cultural icons, markets, and mountains – even the famous Cosmodrome in Baikonur. Beautifully landscaped, this unique “ethnopark” reportedly is one of only 20 such exhibitions in the world.
Opened from the May till November
Congress Hall has been the high culture centre of the city for decades but now is also much more. Kazakhstan’s great heritage of classical music flourishes alongside the high spirits and bright energy of students and schoolchildren in a joyous spectrum of activity. No matter the day of the week you are sure to find something interesting at Congress Hall.
Kazakhstan Central Concert Hall
The Kazakhstan Concert Hall has two main auditoriums, one for film and another for the performing arts, such as concerts and ballet performances. The film theater can seat up to 3500 people. The concert hall has a wide orchestra pit, and back stage for theater, ballet and modern or classical concerts.
Kulanshi Modern Art Center
The Kulanshi Center has a collection that includes European masters such as Albrecht Durer, Rembrandt, Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso.
Modern Art Gallery
This gallery of art, located in the Palace of Peace and Harmony, is the place to see the work of modern Kazakh painters. It is divided into several galleries of different colors. The main gallery is yellow and has 100 paintings and 19 sculptures. Here you can see works of modern Kazakh painters, such as K. V. Mullashev, Akanaev and Begalin. The Palace of Peace and Harmony in which the gallery is housed is also a sight to see in an off itself. The Palace of Peace and Harmony is a unique glass and steel structure in the iconic symbol of the ages – a pyramid. It is the site of numerous international regilious gatherings and at is base it a point that forms the exact center of the capital city of Astana. Its is expecially beautiful from the outside when it is lit up at night.
Museum of the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan
This museum is located in the president’s former residence and offers a unique insight into the birth of a nation and its progress through time. The exhibits reveal the most important stages in the formation of an independent Kazakhstan and talks about the life and work of President Nursultan Nazarbayev. The interiors are intact and the museum collection of over 60,000 items includes souvenirs, books, archival manuscripts, printed materials, film and documentary photographs, works of fine and decorative arts, weapons, personal belongings and documents offered by the president.
Museum of Modern Art in Astana
Originally named the Museum of Fine Arts, the Museum of Modern Art was established in 1980. It started with a collection of 500 works of art, which has grown over the last 30 years to 3,000 pieces. Currently, the collection includes works by artists from Kazakhstan, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Georgia, Armenia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Tajikistan and other CIS countries
National Theater of Opera and Ballet Named after Kulyash Baiseitova
Located near the railway station, this theater is an example late 19th Century architecture. It has gone through a major renovation, and now holds large and small concert halls, a restaurant and practice rooms. The theater focuses on producing a repertoire of Kazakh musical and cultural performances. World-class talent has been invited to perform classic opera classics, including “The Wedding of Figaro,” “Chiochio-san,” “La Traviata” and “Eugene Onegin” among others. The National Theater of Opera and Ballet has received recognition for its quality productions in Kazakhstan and abroad. The concert hall is small, but has good acoustics and seats slightly more than 300 people.
The Palace of Independence
The Palace of Independence is used for official state functions, including forums, meetings and conventions. It includes the Gallery of applied art and ethnography, archeology and anthropology, a modern art Gallery, the Museum of City History of Astana. It also has two theaters; one is a 4D Cinema and the other a theater in 360 degrees. The Palace also includes an electronic library and a model gallery.
Palace of Peace and Harmony
The Palace of Peace and Harmony is a great place to see amazing architecture and modern art. The building itself was designed by renowned architect Norman Foster and offers great views of the city. It also houses a souring three-level concert hall, a modern art gallery and is home to rotating exhibitions. It’s worth a visit.
Presidential Center of Culture of the Republic of Kazakhstan
The Presidential Center of Culture of the Republic of Kazakhstan is conveniently located at the edge of the Right Bank, and is easily accessible from the Left Bank. The museum boasts 143,000 artifacts related to Kazakh archeology, ethnography, history, culture and arts. The “Kazakh Ethnography” collection captures the traditional lifestyles of the Kazakh people and gives visitors a closer understanding of Kazakhstan’s past and present. History comes alive in displays such as a Kazakh yurt, furniture, tableware, clothing, jewelry and many more items. The most striking and valuable exhibit is a bride’s headpiece (saukele) made in the beginning of the 19th century. One of the most interesting collections is of 135 musical instruments on loan from B.A. Sarybaev. The museum also has a library with a collection of more than 700,000 items stored in various media, and a collection of rare books dated between the 17th and the 20th centuries.
The Russian Drama Theater named after Maxim Gorky
Although Astana is a young capital, it is also old enough to have a theater founded in 1899. Today it is one of the largest and most popular drama theaters, not only in Astana, but in all of Central Asia. It puts on an amazing number of performances for adults and children, including classic works of Shakespeare, Chekhov, Gogol, Mrozhek and others.
The Saken Seifullin Museum
Saken Seifullin was a pioneer of modern Kazakh literature, poet and writer, and national activist. He penned controversial literature calling for greater independence of Kazakhs from Soviet and Russian power, and paid for it with his life. Deemed a “threat to the society” and a “nationalist,” Seifullin was executed in Almaty, in 1939. Today he is considered one of the most influential Kazakh thinkers of the 21st century, a major contributor to Kazakh culture and literature, and a martyr for freedom. The fascinating museum memorializes his works, but also serves as a research center. Opened in 1988, it’s now called one of the “historical and spiritual centres of Kazakhstan.”
Has Sanat Gallery
The Has Sanat Gallery has works of well known artists and emerging talent. The core of its collection is paintings of local Kazakh artists, including A. Sadykhanov, A. Akanayev and E. Tolepbay. The gallery also hosts traveling exhibits of work from Kazakhstan and abroad.
This gallery exhibits the work of local and foreign artists.
The Zhastar Palace
This is a popular place for leisure activities – a concentration of the social and entertaining life of the city – and the building is a historical and architectural monument. The four-story structure building was designed to meld into one, such large complexes as an auditorium and gymnasium. After the reconstruction in 2001, the facades were redecorated with modern materials. Visually stunning, presently more than 1,000 children and adolescents are engaged in creative work here.