Petre Otskheli is one of the most important representatives of the Georgian Avant-garde scenography. Together with Irakli Gamrekel, Kirile Zdanevich and other artists, he actually revolutionized Georgian stage and costume design.
Instead of backdrop decoration he shifted the focus of a set designer on a spatial organization of a scene, geometrical concepts of a costume design; simultaneity and multi-temporality achieved through the wholistic approach; maximum economy of pictorial elements, and the creation of such a theatrical scenery that would determine the rhythm of a spectacle and organize the movement of the actor.
Petre Otskheli’s art incarnated this Constructivism ideology with the highest artistry. The peculiarity of Petre Otskheli’s scenography is revealed not only by geometric abstraction, characteristic of the same Russian constructivism, not by the introduction of folk-kitsch elements, also characteristic of the Russian stage design of that time, but by a unique agreement of Constructivism and Art Deco. This is the quality, by which he stands out in the entire spectrum of Georgian-Russian Avant-garde stage design.
Petre Otskheli was born in 1907 in Kutaisi. From 1913 to 1920, he lived with his family in Moscow. In 1920, he returned to Georgia and continued his studies at the real school in Kutaisi at the same time studying painting in the studio near the school.
In 1926, he continued his studies at the Tbilisi Academy of Arts in the class of Professor Iosif Charlemagne.
In 1927, Otskheli designed costumes and scenery for the Anatoli Lunacharsky’s “Fire-raisers.” After this performance, Kote Marjanishvili offered him a job in the Theater of Kutaisi.
Kote Marjanishvili and his theater played a decisive role in the formation of Petre Otskheli. He worked in Tbilisi, Kutaisi and Moscow theaters always with famous directors (K. Marjanishvili, K. Stanislavski and others).He designed a number of well-known productions that turned into epoch-making cultural events such as “Uriel Acosta” (1929), “Khatidje”, “Othello”, “Robbers”, ” The Dum Have Spoken ” and others. Otskheli designed the set and now-very-well-known costumes for the Leo Esakia’s movie “The Winged Painter”
In 1937, his sketches won the first prize in a competition for the set design of Verdi’s Rigoletto, held by Stanislavski. In 1939, his works were awarded a gold medal at the exhibition of set-designers in London.
With the start of the 1937 crackdowns and purges, the Soviet cultural policy finally put an end to Modernism, and the persecution of Petre Otskheli began. He tried to save himself and moved to Moscow with his friend, Sergo Amaglobeli, the director of the Moscow Small Theater. However, they were both arrested and sentenced to death as “the enemies of the people”.