Chorsu Art Gallery, Samarkand

Chorsu Art Gallery in Samarkand joins the rest of this historic city on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Located on the pedestrian Tashkent Street just behind Sherdor Madrasah in Registan Square, it was built in the 15th century and currently operates as a museum and art gallery.

“Chorsu”, meaning “Covered Market” in Uzbek and “Four Paths” in Farsi, is an apt name for this former flea market built at an intersection of caravan roads which connected Samarkand with Bukhara, Tashkent and Shakhrisabz. At the beginning of the 18th century, the building was reconstructed and converted into a hat market. Gradually it evolved into a more general shopping center for clothes, medicines, books and other items. Shops and merchants’ stalls popped up around its perimeter, and Chorsu remained the center of this mini shopping enterprise until the early 20th century. While Uzbekistan was under Soviet rule, the future Samarkand museum was largely under-utilized as a small knickknack shop.

In 2005, the Samarkand branch of the Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan decided to create a gallery of fine art inside Chorsu, and large-scale restoration of the monument commenced. Three meters of soil were hauled away from its perimeter in order to restore the full visual impact of its height and unusual appearance, a domed hexagon with four entrances and 12 angled, prism-shaped walls. The building has one large central dome and four smaller domes located above each of its entrances.

Today, the works of famous Uzbek artists past and present are now on exhibition at Chorsu Art Gallery. In Samarkand, it has gained respect as one of the city’s finest art galleries, where the invaluable history and culture of Uzbekistan is conveyed through sculptures, paintings and pottery covering a variety of themes. Although small in size compared to the Samarkand State Museum of Cultural History of Uzbekistan, anyone with an appreciation for the arts and Central Asian history is encouraged to pay a visit to this hexagonal gem of Uzbek culture.