Galleries provide legal space for Russian street art – New York Times

URBAN STREET ART GRAFFITI RUSSIA

In a special report on contemporary art The New York Times explores urban art culture in Russia. According to Oxana Bondarenko, a curator profiled by the paper who concentrates on street art and lives between Paris and Moscow, it is difficult to be a graffiti artist in Russia as the state invests a lot of money in chasing down artists and painting over their work. Furthermore, even though there is no specific law that regulates street art, people can be caught and penalised under criminal law. However, artists have started to find new outlets which allow them to work legally.

A legitimate graffiti event in an underpass in Moscow in the early 2000s. Image taken from coderedmagazine.com.

A legitimate graffiti event in an underpass in Moscow in the early 2000s. Image taken from coderedmagazine.com.

Click here to read the New York Times special report on urban art in Russia.

For instance, one of the first supporters of street art in Moscow, Street Kit gallery, designed a website where Russian and international artists can display and sell their work and organise events in galleries and out on the streets of the capital. According to the gallery’s founder Sabina Chagina, “Our streets are a blank piece of paper. It is now becoming easier to organise drawings and art on some streets. And artists are now slowly being given legal permission to paint on certain walls.”

'Red', a piece done by street artist ZEVS in Russia in July this year. Image taken from ekosystem.org.

'Red', a piece done by street artist ZEVS in Russia in July this year. Image taken from ekosystem.org.

Events like “Flow Masters”, the Moscow International Biennale for Young Art and “Mistetskiy Arsenal Culture” are being organised where local and international artists display their work indoors as well as outdoors. For example, ZEVS, a graffiti artist based in Paris, was invited to participate in a group show which displayed what Russia means to artists today. ZEVS painted a gigantic hammer and sickle on a red background and the famous symbol was “liquidated” in front of the public.

Other efforts include the Moscow launch of “From Style Writing to Graffiti: A Street Art Anthology”, a book by Paris gallery owner Magda Danysz. The book tracks the history of the movement from the 1960s into the present. Furthermore, a group of street artists from Britain including Pure Evil and DBO exhibited their work in Moscow art space Artplay.

According to Make, an old-school graffiti artist that founded the RUS crew, street art is important as it has the capability to show a local population’s own and uncensored voice. The RUS crew became popular because of their thought-provoking style, expressed on regional trains through illustrative pictorial tales and American-inspired graffiti.

Today Make is a respected artist who has solo exhibitions in Moscow galleries and abroad and was a finalist in the national Kandinsky Prize. In his recent works influences from Russian constructivist art and Communist propaganda can be seen and he is now concentrating on a series of wire sculptures that he installs on different streets in Moscow in a way that security cameras would be. In spite of his increased status, Make still believes that street art can have a greater impact than art shown in galleries: “It’s much more powerful [on the street] than in white cubes.”

A piece by Kislow, a member of Interesni Kazki. Image taken from 2photo.ru.

A piece by Kislow, a member of Interesni Kazki. Image taken from 2photo.ru.

Another street art group that has found success in Russia is the Kiev-based duo Interesni Kazki (or Interesting Fairy Tales). They have been involved not only with Street Kit gallery but have also held shows worldwide including in Milan and Lyon. The artists, Waone and Aec, have been creating panoramic paintings depicting tongue-in-cheek fairy tales for over ten years. “Our art is not only for Russian society, it is for all people, all over the world,” said Waone. “We don’t intend one single message. We want every person to create his or her own meaning.”

A piece completed by the crew RUS in 2010. Image taken from winzavod.ru.

A piece completed by the graffiti art crew RUS in 2010. Image taken from winzavod.ru.

EN/KN/HH

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