Art Radar explores five contemporary art spaces to visit in the engaging Russian art scene.
Russia has become an active stage for contemporary art, especially in the capital Moscow, with events such as the Moscow Biennale and Art Moscow fair. Russian collectors can be seen on spending sprees at international fairs and auctions. Art Radar explores five contemporary art spaces in Russia that are showing great art today.
A booming art scene defying censorship
Russian contemporary art has gained global attention for its defiance of censorship. Many Russian artists have made headlines for their powerfully political voices and for mocking the authorities without fear of persecution. The infamous Pussy Riot saga, Voina’s giant penis graffiti on a bridge and the allegorical works of AES+F are only a few examples of Russian artists defying the authorities.
The latest performance by artist Pyotr Pavlensky, who nailed his scrotum to the ground in the Red Square in Moscow, was a very explicit commentary on the Russian state. As the artist said to The Guardian, his performance worked as “a metaphor for the apathy, political indifference and fatalism of contemporary Russian society.” At the Venice Biennale this year, Vadim Zakharov’s installation in the Russian Pavilion inspired by the myth of Zeus and Danae – commenting on wealth, the market, the value of art – was also a favourite in numerous reviews of the biennial event.
Moscow is a growing arts capital, with a great number of galleries and art spaces. The Russian city is home to the Moscow Biennale, founded in 2005, and Art Moscow, an increasingly international art fair at its seventeenth edition this year. Moscow also hosts the biggest national prize for contemporary art, the Kandinsky Prize, which takes place at the Centre for Contemporary Art at Udarnik, an old theatre adapted to host exhibitions and slated to be a museum permanently hosting the personal collection of Shalva Breus, Head of ArtChronika Foundation.
St Petersburg’s decline
In a September 2013 article in The Art Newspaper, Dmitri Ozerkov, the head of the State Hermitage Museum’s Contemporary Art Department, revealed how St. Petersburg’s contemporary art scene is at a “low point” because “many (artists) have left for Moscow, or gone abroad …”. Art clusters are starting to develop in St. Petersburg, he said, but tax breaks and other government measures are needed to spur further creativity in the city, without infringing on freedom of expression. There are, however, museums, galleries and alternative art spaces that are involved and engaged in developing the local art scene, such as Marina Gisich Gallery, Anna Nova Gallery, Aperto Gallery, the Novy Museum and the ProArte Foundation among others.
Art Radar picked five contemporary art spaces in Russia that should not be missed when visiting the country’s contemporary art scene.
Garage Center for Contemporary Culture defines itself as “an independent platform for new thinking” in Moscow. Through an extensive programme of exhibitions, events, research, education and publishing, Garage reflects on current developments in Russian and international culture, creating opportunities for public dialogue and the production of new work and ideas.
Founded in 2008 by Dasha Zhukova, the institution is building a unique archive focusing on the development of contemporary art in Russia, while pioneering diverse educational projects for families and professionals that are the first of their kind in the country. These provide the foundation from which experimental exhibitions, events and screenings are initiated.
In May 2012, Garage launched a publishing programme in collaboration with Ad Marginem Press, which includes major texts on contemporary art and architecture, new media, photography, theatre, cinema, sociology and cultural marketing. In October 2012, Garage relocated from its former home in the Bakhmetevsky Bus Garage to Gorky Park. Garage Pavilion, designed by Shigeru Ban, houses an exhibition hall, café and bookshop.
The Centre for Contemporary Art WINZAVOD is the first and the biggest art centre in the country. It is located in a large complex of seven industrial buildings dating to the late nineteenth century, including a former brewery and later wine factory, Moscow Bavaria, and the house of Princess Volkonskaya. Founded in 2007 by businessman Roman Trotsenko and headed by his wife Sofia until March 2012, the centre’s mission is to support and develop Russian contemporary art. The centre also publishes Winzavod Art Review, a free monthly newspaper.
WINZAVOD is home to eleven galleries, including the prominent XL Gallery, modern art gallery Aidan, Marat Guelman Gallery (one of the most provocative galleries in Moscow), the radical art forum Regina Gallery, classical Russian avant-garde gallery Proun and Atelier No.2, and photo galleries Pobeda, Photographer.ru and Fotoloft. The centre also hosts artists’ workshops, designers and photographers studios, art cafes, fashion showrooms, a bookshop and children’s studio among other things.
WINZAVOD prides itself on organising and hosting personal exhibitions, curatorial projects, a programme for the support of young artists called START and the annual project Best Photos of Russia. WINZAVOD also regularly hosts various festivals and educational programmes on contemporary art, cinematography, theatre, architecture and design, as well as different charity events and creative workshops.
The Centre for Contemporary Art SOKOL (CCA SOKOL) was established in summer 2013 by the Institute of Contemporary Art and non-commercial institution International Projects 21. The centre focuses on the development and promotion of contemporary art.
CCA SOKOL’s exhibition programme includes experimental projects by emerging artists and shows by well-known Russian and foreign artists. An educational programme including conferences, workshops, discussions, lectures and master classes has an important complementary role. CCA SOKOL is also set to become an efficient platform of expression for young curators from all over the world. The activity of the centre aims at further developing the dialogue between art community and society.
The publishing programme within the centre’s activities is an integral part of both curatorial initiatives forums and exhibition projects. In September 2013, CCA SOKOL presented an exhibition as part of The Special Project of the Fifth Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art. According to art PR agency Karneeva Group, CCA SOKOL is a pioneer initiative, located in a promising part of Moscow where a new art cluster uniting both private and state institutions will occur within the next three years.
(Note: the website is in Russian only)
Erarta Museum, St. Petersburg
Erarta, opened in 2010, is known as “the biggest global project in Russian contemporary art.” Its name is derived from combining two words — “Era” and “Arta” which can be translated from Russian as “The Era of Art”. The Erarta building in St. Petersburg brings under one roof Russia’s largest private museum of contemporary art and five floors of temporary exhibitions in the galleries wing, with an overall 8000-square-metre area (currently being expanded to 10,000).
Erarta comprises four projects:
- Erarta Museum: the largest private museum of contemporary art in Russia
- Erarta Galleries: an international group of galleries established in St. Petersburg, New York, London, Zurich and Hong Kong
- Erarta Programmes: projects that popularise contemporary art and involve people in the creative process
- Erarta Design: interior design solutions featuring contemporary Russian works of art under Erarta’s curatorship
Erarta’s museum collection contains over 2300 works by more than 170 Russian contemporary artists. The galleries hold rotating permanent exhibitions of paintings, sculptures and installations while also offering works for sale. Erarta has also become an important cultural centre in St. Petersburg, having hosted over 300 theatrical plays, lectures, concerts, film screenings, book readings, award ceremonies and other events since its opening.
Rizzordi Art Foundation, St. Petersburg
The Rizzordi Art Foundation was founded in 2009 by the Rizzordi Art Gallery founders, who established the gallery in 2008. In 2011, the Foundation opened its independent space, the Rizzordi Loft, covering 4000 square metres on several floors in an old St. Petersburg malthouse.
The Rizzordi Art Foundation was established to support contemporary art in Russia and is dedicated to the promotion of young talent and the integration of Russian contemporary art into the global artistic environment. Rizzordi Art Foundation is also one of the founders of Contemporary Art Institutions Association (CAIA).
Educational programmes play an important role in the Foundation activities, with a variety of talks, conferences, master classes and lectures for adults and children alike. The Foundation partners with Russian Gift of Life (United States) and administers its own children’s charity programme. The Foundation also places particular emphasis on publishing activities. For the majority of its exhibitions, the Foundation has published unique catalogues and albums with texts by the leading art experts of Moscow and St. Petersburg. In 2013, a branch of the Rizzordi Art Foundation is slated to open in Tbilisi (Georgia).
C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia
- Russian artist on the run as authorities seize provocative paintings – August 2013 – Konstantin Altunin fled Russia for France after authorities sequestered four of his controversial paintings depicting Putin and Medvedev in women’s underwear
- Boosting Russia’s contemporary art: how can it be done? Art Moscow’s Creative Director explains – June 2013 – Art Moscow Creative Director Eric Schlosser discusses the strengths and weaknesses of Russia’s contemporary art scene and what can be done to boost it
- 11.12 Gallery brings Russian contemporary art to Singapore collectors – November 2012 – Moscow contemporary art space 11.12 Gallery is set to open a second location in Singapore in an effort to bring Russian artists to the Asian art hub’s collectors
- Fourth Moscow Biennale all about new media art – review round up – November 2011 – Art Radar presents key ideas from commentators and critics at The Fourth Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art
- Russian curators prosecuted for showcasing banned art: media round-up – August 2010 – two Russian curators are declared “guilty of inciting religious hatred”
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