Ukranian Nikolai Siadristyi has spent his life creating impossibly small works of art. Cleo Paskal discovered beauty at the end of a microscope at the artist's museum of miniatures in Andorra

The museum starts big. As classical music booms out you are shown footage of outer space, of the immensity of the universe. Slowly you are drawn towards the earth and scenes of some of the monumental accomplishments of man, from the Panama Canal to atom bombs to grand cathedrals. Just as you begin to feel that the huge constructions of man are smothering the planet, a voice-over tells you that you have entered the era of miniaturisation, where small equals much better. Forget mega dams, think microchips. The message is that the cosmic forces of history have lead to this room, to the entrance hall of Nikolai Siadristyi's Museum of Miniatures.

The museum starts big. As classical music booms out you are shown footage of outer space, of the immensity of the universe. Slowly you are drawn towards the earth and scenes of some of the monumental accomplishments of man, from the Panama Canal to atom bombs to grand cathedrals. Just as you begin to feel that the huge constructions of man are smothering the planet, a voice-over tells you that you have entered the era of miniaturisation, where small equals much better. Forget mega dams, think microchips. The message is that the cosmic forces of history have lead to this room, to the entrance hall of Nikolai Siadristyi's Museum of Miniatures.

Siadristyi is the sort of passionate, eccentric artist that seems to grow well on Ukrainian soil. Born in 1937, he trained first as an agricultural engineer before devoting himself full-time to making impossibly small works of art.

A few years ago, Siadristyi met Antoni Zorzano, an Andorran businessman and collector of Soviet art and Zorzano invited him to visit Andorra. A mountainous country with a population of around 70,000, Andorra is better known for its shopping and skiing than for its museums. But when Siadristyi arrived in Andorra, he found a nation that was attractively peaceful and, like his work, small. And so he allowed the building of the only museum dedicated to his work outside the Ukraine.

The museum is, perhaps, at its most impressive in winter. When you've been out on the slopes, enjoying the invigorating vastness of the snowy Andorran scenery, the contrast with this peculiar exhibition and its artist's devotion to embellishing the eyes of needles, is at its sharpest. The main exhibition room looks a bit like a laboratory. There are a dozen or so microscopes against the walls, each one focused on something floating in a pool of light. In the first one I saw a tray, a pitcher, two golden goblets and an apple, all placed strategically on a single crystal of sugar. I took my eye away from the microscope and looked again at the pool of light. Yes, there it was, too small for me to focus on with my naked eye but unquestionably there.

I looked in the next microscope. Placed in the eye of a needle, this time, was a gold chariot. The string of the bow that the driver was pulling back was 400 times smaller than a human hair. I moved on. The next scene was taken from Aesop's story of the fox and the grapes. It was outlined by the deep mahogany frame of a carved grape pip. Then came a life-sized flea complete with golden horseshoes and a crown (it was apparently inspired by an old Russian fable). And the tiniest portrait of the Pope, carved out in bas relief from a black thorn pip. And a swallow, 0.005 microns thick. And a 3mm long human hair with the word "peace" written on its shaft in five different languages. And, finally, the smallest inscription in the world, the name of the artist carved in platinum coating the tip of a human hair. Beats those "Draw-Yer-Name-On-A-Grain-Of-Rice" touts any day. As I looked up from the last microscope, the museum's tour guide Paula Lopez de Castilla answered my questions for me. "It takes him six to nine months per miniature. Sometimes even longer." She pointed out a framed, black and white sketch of Khrushchev that I had not noticed. "That one took two years. It is the complete text of 120 of Khrushchev speeches. He made the face appear by shading the lettering." I took a closer look. From about an inch away, the face of Khrushchev dissolved into a mass of Cyrillic script.

She continued: "He starts each work session with an hour of yoga to slow down his heartbeat. He can work only between heartbeats. And he makes his own tools. He likes to use natural materials like seeds, sugar crystals and hair. He will cut seeds one by one until he finds a perfect one.

"Unfortunately, we have no video of him at work because, if he is being filmed, he gets nervous and shakes."

The odd thing was, I believed her. The miniatures show all the signs of having been created by just the sort of barmy genius that used to exist in the world before TV. But an equally big accomplishment was that it was here, in Andorra. Beautiful tiny art in a beautiful, tiny country.

The Museu Siadristyi de la Miniatura is in Ordino, Andorra (tel: 00376 838 338, email: azorzano@andoranet.ad). Entrance costs Andorran Ptas500 (£1.90). Antoni Zorzano also owns two other museums in Ordino; the Sant Jordi Orthodox Russian Icon Museum (00376 838 338) and the Matrioshka Museum, full of Russian dolls (00376 828 496)

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