ART SPACE RUSSIA
Daria Zhukova’s Garage Center for Contemporary Culture drew comparisons to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art and London’s Tate Modern when it opened in a vast, reconstructed garage last month.But the Bakhmetevsky Bus Garage, an architectural landmark, is far from a permanent accommodation and will have to be vacated in two years to allow for the construction of the Russian-Jewish Museum of Tolerance.
“Daria’s center is absolutely temporary,” said Timor Kireyev, a spokesman for the Federation of Jewish Communities, which holds the lease on the building. “We never turned the lease of the building over to her. We allowed her to use the space.”
Several media outlets, including The New York Times, have reported that Zhukova has taken over the lease.
How Zhukova won the right to use the space for her art museum is a complicated tale of Russian bureaucracy and good ties — in this case the fact that her boyfriend, billionaire Roman Abramovich, is chairman of the Federation of Jewish Communities’ board of trustees.
In 2001, the Moscow city government granted the 8,500-square-meter garage, built by constructivist architect Konstantin Melnikov to the Federation of Jewish Communities, on the condition that it create a cultural and educational complex on the property. The government still owns the property.
Following massive reconstruction work on the building — expected to begin in late 2009 — the garage will become home to the Russian-Jewish Museum of Tolerance, said Alexander Boroda, the executive director of the Federation of Jewish Communities.
Although a press release issued by the gallery included two short paragraphs devoted to the history of the garage, neither the building’s future as a Jewish museum nor its connection to the Federation was mentioned.
Messages left at Zhukova’s London press office were not returned. A Moscow spokesperson for Garage said it is unclear where the Center will move when construction work for the museum begins.
Zhukova, 27, is the daughter of an oil tycoon and girlfriend of Abramovich, one of Russia’s wealthiest men.
The billionaire sponsored Garage’s first major event, last month’s exhibition by renowned emigre artists Emilia and Ilya Kabakov. How much funding he contributed is undisclosed.
The Federation had already made plans with the Kabakovs to host their retrospective in the garage before Zhukova had expressed an interest in creating an art center there, according to Baruch Gorin, the organization’s press secretary.
“It was on our initiative that Garage opened the exhibit,” he said. “We weren’t prepared to fund and organize the event and so we approached her to take the project over.”
Several sources close to the Federation say the deal allowing Zhukova to use the space temporarily was worked out between Abramovich and Alexander Boroda, the executive director of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Russia, behind closed doors.