Moscow Art World, Up All Night with plenty on their minds

While much international attention remains fixed on the protests (with the occasional, speculative mention of fresh attacks from the church on art), the fact that tonight, May 19, Moscow is celebrating a night-long festival of culture, partially funded by the state, doesn’t quite seem to fit the oppressor-against-art narrative.

Museum Night 2012 is a program of over 150 events taking place from 7pm until midnight tonight at a vast array of Moscow’s museums. And not just contemporary art here – the online guide offers everything from science and technology to natural history.

The concept of a Museum Night is by no means new, but, as artguide pointed out, it takes on special significance in a moment where the city is trying to outlaw “non-sanctioned” strolling. For the purposes of branding, Museum Night has affiliated itself with Francis Alys’ The Nightwatch, a 2004 video for which the artist collages CCTV footage of a fox set free in the National Portrait Gallery in London. The work was intended as a statement on surveillance, a potential coincidence that nevertheless casts a dark shadow on this year’s events.

Still from Francis Alys, The Nightwatch, 2004

And while the bulk of the program seems to be running smoothly, there were some hitches. One exhibition was planned to take place on a bus, that would roam the city. Perhaps this plan bore too close a resemblance to the Pussy Riot protest bus, as permission was revoked two days prior.

Other cancellations were voluntary. KomMissia pulled their festival of comics from the Winzavod  when they found their very pricy real estate to be unsuitable for their exhibition. Their response was to post a scathing video, bidding adieu to “Swin-zavod”, which they called out as “an overpriced office park, not a space for art.” The exhibition was moved to the Synergy University campus in Sokol, where it will be on display for an entire month. (So far – adding this to recent gallery “transitions” – not the easiest start for new director Elena Panteleeva, who was quoted as saying “I’m just the art director. I don’t decide anything.”)

The one project we are truly sad to be missing, however, is a proposal for an Alternative Museum, which someone has had the good-sense to call it like it is: BOCHAVARFEST, after the multi-talented and ubiquitous artist and curator, Katya Bochavar (who collaborated with Baibakov Art Projects on all of our projects, but also spearheaded Gogolfest in 2010 and 2011, as well as the ArtSquatForum last September in Moscow.) The program – which includes a concert by Peter Aidu and a lecture by Alexander Petlura – kicks off at 8:30pm at Zubovsky Boulevard 2.

We’re looking forward to reports!

An image of one of Peter Aidu’s antique pianos

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