Magazines: one can travel without travelling. «I receive orders from villages in Russia, for which, when I look at google maps are towns consisting of twenty houses»
A mansion by the name of Richter consists of a project by Konstantin Kotov in the center of Moscow. In late 2018, Lebigmag opened its reading room inside the mansion which provides opportunities to a handful, in privacy and seclusion. The top floor is occupied by a design hotel with seven rooms. The premises additionally house an outdoor-exhibition space, an art gallery, a sound studio, a bar and a restaurant. Nastya Efimova, the owner of Brick Hotel and founder of Richter invited Kotov to join her project which was named after an architect who built the house for his family. Lebigmag is an international-magazine store with a collection of publications on fashion, art and cultural fields and is updated as new-issues are released. It is the Russian partner of a number of publishers and distributors for arrivals of prints, providing updates with a frequency of distribution in Russia.
St. Petersburg is Kostov’s hometown. His upbringing and growth are influenced by the city, and have been affected by his father who was a journalist and a photographer during the Soviet Union. The city was founded by Tsar Peter on 27 May 1703 on the site of a captured Swedish fortress and was named after apostle Saint Peter as the second-largest city in Russia. Kotov studied philology and foreign languages in St. Petersburg and continued to do so in Trier at the age of eighteen, for four years, post which he lived in Cologne to explore the print culture of Europe and contemporary-art scene. «Studying culture has paved the foundation for my project». In 2002, Kotov returned to study public relations in St. Petersburg. His interest in print culture led him to explore photography, journalism, editing and designing publications.. His meditation and research on the matter launched his initiation of bringing foreign magazines to Russia as they were not available. «I noticed the magazines I had in my collection were appreciated, this grew eagerness on the possibilities of having a space where foreign issues are demanded, cultivating curiosity. In 2011, my idea began to solidify which made me open the reading room in September 2012 and launch a website in the spring of 2013».
Kotov‘s involvement with the art world resulted in him visiting galleries in St. Petersburg. He conjoined and extended this interest for a collaboration with Rizzordi Art Gallery run by Anna Shumilova, owning a ground loft area of four-thousand-square-meters. A brick building of five-stories and abandoned-brewery from the Nineteenth century was converted into an art gallery focusing on Russian and Western art, covering genres and techniques that occupy two stories of the building. Anna provided a twenty-five-meter-square space to Kotov at the entrance of the gallery to build the reading room without charging a commission. «I built a wall, added magazines from my collection, made international orders, brought-in old furniture, and my reading room was ready». Lebigmag collaborated with Rizzordi in St Petersburg until 2015. Kotov moved to and operated the responsibilities online from Buenos Aires, without having physical representation, until 2017. He decided to open a store in the city of Moscow after encountering Falena Libros, a bookshop in Argentina,owned by Marcela Giscafrè. Falena Libros resembled a deserted-building from the outside and opened into a wine cellar and reading space. The bookstore consisted of terraces and a lounge space with a fireplace that held art exhibitions, wine tasting and social-gatherings. The bookshop did not welcome visitors without prior appointment. This dynamic of a reading space impressed Kotov. «I wanted to implement its theme. I did not know if it would work and if the people in Russia would show interest. I considered it a social experiment». In 2017, Kotov returned to Russia and moved the St. Petersburg store to Moscow with friends. «We opened a space at an old constructivist bread factory and named it Auditoria. It combined a reading room and a store of foreign magazines, a lecture hall and a bar». Here they welcomed Maria Joudina, the editor of Puss Puss Magazine, who launched the sixth issue of the magazine at Lebigmag, which was the first foreign-launch in the print history of Russia. They had Emmy Koski, chief editor of Odiseo Magazine, who launched the tenth issue at Lebigmag marking a second launch.
«At Richter, I have an audience, people I have gathered in the thousands, who come to purchase at Lebigmag. We have professionals emerging from the publication industry within Russia and it pleases me to serve this group of people. My education has not been related to the work I do. Yes, I appreciated cinema, music and cultural-representations growing up. I DJ, take photos and write, but they are my hobbies. What I am doing at Lebigmag affects me and my interests. It is a co-creative partnership. Magazines are the source of the visual-experience with which one can travel without travelling. I did not begin with the intention to be a millionaire. The reading room is an adventure. We had a rise in demand during Covid-19 lockdowns. People came to the reading room as they mentioned they were fatigued by the sight of screens. Print culture is here to stay and digital-innovation is here to support it, but not overpower the prints. The interest in magazines at Lebigmag has risen in comparison to 2020 and I consider this social-experiment as a profession». On the question of the name Lebigmag, Kotov responded, «the name comes from the movie ‘Pulp Fiction’ by Quentin Tarantino when Vince (John Travolta) returns from his trip to Europe and tells Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) what Mc Donald’s called Big Mac Burger in Paris which was Le Big Mac. I was in my youth when I watched the film, I was intrigued by the narration that was played, and did a wordplay with the term, replacing c with g for the mag in magazine, and decided on ‘Lebigmag’». The Russian print culture has grown with zine prints and Kotov supports artists across domains. «I hope to see a reboot in print culture». Lebigmag has been distributed within Russia with partners in cities, towns and villages. «I receive orders from villages in Russia, for which, when I look at google maps are towns consisting of twenty houses». Kotov gives lectures at the British School of Art and Design and wishes to be a teacher and launch his magazine in the coming future.IMAGE GALLERY
Ulitsa Pyatnitskaya, 42