People / Places / Russia

Contemporary Art Galleries in Moscow

VIENNAFAIR The New Contemporary co-hosted “Preview Night” at WINZAVOD Centre for Contemporary Art, where the most important Moscow galleries for contemporary art presented new exhibitions. Among the permanent projects located at the Winzavod, visitors also had the opportunity to visit pop-up exhibitions of MSK Gallery, Open Gallery, and Gallery Triumph as well as a chance to get to know brand new projects like Gallery After Six and Osnova Gallery.

In order to get an idea of Moscow’s contemporary art scene The New Contemporary asked all participants to point out what one should know about it.

Marina Bobyleva, Triumph Gallery

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We do not have so many galleries in Moscow and not so many artists. I hope that the art scene will evolve and develop the art market. Regarding our gallery, we try to work with young Russian artists and bring international artists for shows in Russia and make parallels between them. We also try to support young video artists, even though they are not that commercially successful, but they are very important and interesting from an institutional point of view. Our artists work in a very broad spectrum of media. Basically, we try to present the whole spectrum and show the diversity of contemporary art at the gallery.

Marat Guelman, Cultural Alliance project by Marat Guelman

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It should be noted that five years ago Moscow and the Russian art scene were practically the same thing. Nowadays you can find very interesting artists from St. Petersburg to Siberia, so the Russian art scene is no longer concentrated only in Moscow. If you want to understand the difference between Russian art and art from the US or Europe I would use Arte Povera as an example. Traditionally in Russian art there was some sort of literary aspect, storytelling, a special sense of irony, a language of poor art, but with a different intention toward Arte Povera. Whereas artists from the Arte Povera movement deliberately refused beauty and glamour while being surrounded by this beauty, Russian artists, on the other hand, use poor material in an attempt to grasp this beauty. To be clearer: There are two kinds of starving people. One is hungry because he or she is on a diet – this is Italian Arte Povera. The other doesn’t have money to buy some food, and they dream about it – this is Russian poor art. Other than that you have to be familiar with names of the artists and curators, as is the case everywhere in the world.
We have long believed that storytelling in the arts is our weakness, that Russian art is too anecdotal, that there is always a story instead of an image – and then it became clear that this is a feature, and like any feature it is unique, it can be seen as being positive. For example, Dubossarsky and Vinogradov only tell stories in their artworks, and one might think that everything that is bad about Russian art is concentrated in their works, but in fact it turns out that this is the most interesting part.
I also think that there is nowhere else where you can find such self-irony as in Russian art, where the artist doesn’t criticize society but is simply laughing at him or herself.

Ja’bagh Kaghado, Wildrik Batjes, MSK Gallery.

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In the last ten years the Moscow contemporary art movement has been moving and developing so rapidly. Any foreigner who comes to Moscow, who doesn’t know anything, would be really attracted by the different types of art and different galleries and museums that promote contemporary art, especially that of young artists. At our gallery we showcase emerging artists, and we don’t care about their names. Recently we organized a show where we tried to put some new young Russian artists on the market, and at the same time we had bigger names from the US and Europe on display. People, whether established or new collectors, are coming to us and can see what is happening in the art market in Moscow.
Why did we create a platform for young artists? Because we are artists ourselves, and we understand that most galleries are commercial and that some artists don’t have a chance with them. We, on the other hand, don’t care about the commercial side of art that much, and that is what distinguishes us from other galleries. That doesn’t mean that we are milliners – we do art for art sake and because we like it.

Evgenia Kiseleva, Gallery After:Six

Eugenia Kisileva, Gallery After:Six
In my opinion, Moscow cultural life is in a very good phase at the moment. It is very diverse, active, and dynamic. There are activities for all tastes: from traditional figurative vernissages to experiments with installations, performance, sound art, and much more. We, Gallery After:Six, are in search for a new exhibiting language. We position ourselves as an art concierge, and we want to find new points of contact and communication between artists and the audience. We are trying to establish a new dialogue, which would expand the traditional way of experiencing the exhibition: from where one comes, sees the artworks, forms an opinion, and leaves to live communication between the creator and his or her audience. We are a very young gallery; actually we just opened our doors today.

Alena Kurmasheva, Osnova Gallery

Alena Kuibysheva, Osnova Gallery
First of all, Moscow has a strongly developing art market, which is 15-years-old at the max. Hence, when you come to Moscow you won’t see so many galleries as in Berlin. It will be a cut of the most outstanding galleries (around maybe 15), which you should pay attention to in order to get an idea of how the Russian art market functions and what will happen in the next 15 to 20 years. The most important thing is to go to the actual places, like Winzavod, Garage, or other institutions, and have a look at Russian art and learn about it on the spot.

Mike and Vladimir Ovcharenko, Regina Gallery

Mike and Vladimir Ovcharenko, Regina Gallery

Sergey Popov, pop/off/art Gallery

Alexander Popov, Pop of art Gallery
The first thing that has to be noted is that the Russian art scene remains emerging. It has many facets, and we all hope that it will develop into something big in the end, but it is a work-in-progress at the moment.
The second point that this state is not deserved and the scene is underappreciated. The level of art and artists here should be seen in the context of prominent and leading international art schools and trends. In fact, it has been simply historically underestimated for several reasons.
Following the previous points, the third one is that fact that art from Russia remains strongly undervalued. The value of the work of many artists will be revised in a positive way in the near future, I think. It will depend on our internal processes: As soon as more local collectors buy more art here, it will just be a matter of time before it goes to the international markets. We have a great future ahead of us, and we all believe in it.

Marina Pecherskaya, Pechersky Gallery

Photo: Dasha Yastrebova

Photo: Dasha Yastrebova

Despite political instability and consequent weak involvement into international art scene, contemporary art in Russia is evolving and steadily gaining sufficient feedback from professionals and general public all over the world.

Aidan Salakhova, Aidan Studio

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Elena Selina, XL Gallery

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I feel very sorry for someone who is not familiar with Russian art because in order to get a grasp of it you have to work hard and first learn the history. A great help in doing so has been recently published in a catalog by our gallery in which you can see how the Moscow art scene looked like in the 90s.
We have many analog artists, who are similar to their Western counterparts, but they have come to this in a different way.
One doesn’t have to put too much effort into discovering English or German art, but one needs to work hard to learn about Mexican or Russian art.

Alexander Sharov, 11.12 Gallery

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I think the most important thing is that one has to come to Russia, visit the museums and galleries, and see everything with one’s own eyes. You should come to Russia in order to see the variety and quantity of Russian contemporary art, which we are not able to bring out of the country due to financial and physical implications.

Natasha Tamruchi, Open Gallery

Natalia Tamruchi, Open Gallery
I am a guest here with a pop-up exhibition. Moscow has a very intense art scene with many exhibitions happening at the moment. In fact, I haven’t seen something like this anywhere else; it is a little bit too much in my opinion. Suddenly, the state is getting involved in exhibition activities with major force. Everyone has become interested in contemporary art. There are more and more exhibition spaces where one can find contemporary art: for example, Moscow Museum, which opened in the old warehouses in the culture park, or Manege, which used to be a horrible place and was never a part of artistic life, changed completely two years ago when Marina Loshak was invited there as an artistic director and changed the concept of the space – now it is one of the hotspots of Moscow’s art scene, locally and internationally. Another example: The building under the Mukhina statue at VDNKH, which is now being used for contemporary art exhibitions for the first time (under the direction of Marina Loshak again). The paradox is that there are more and more spaces for exhibiting contemporary art but less media where you can read about it. Thus, a certain amount of good exhibitions sink away in silence.

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