Tomorrow, ArtMoscow will kick off its 16th edition, quite a feat for a fair whose death knell has sounded more than once. The most recent of these tolls came with the announcement that Sergey Skaterschikov had bought the struggling VIENNAFAIR and was determined to pump it with Russian reserves, including art-director-extraordinaire Christina Steinbrecher, whose efforts at revitalizing last year’s ArtMoscow seemed to be the only hope the fair had. To add insult to injury, the fairs were scheduled for the exact same time, meaning the few Russian collectors had no choice but to pick teams.
In Steinbrecher’s absence, ArtMoscow has done what it could. Last week, expert committee member Katya Iragui sent an impassioned letter to the Moscow art community, reminding them about the power of patronage in times of social uprising. “It is the right moment to support Russian contemporary art if we want to see our country integrated into the global cultural community and art space. Our city needs to have a high quality contemporary art fair.”
It’s been a tough year for the Moscow art world, with three of the major galleries – Aidan, Marat Guelman and XL – restructuring as non-profits. Of the major galleries that remain – including heavyweight Regina and trend-setter Paperworks – only Triumph Gallery will be participating in the fair. While this would normally be a tremendous setback, ArtMoscow has filled these gaps with an unexpected international showing, with galleries from Havana and Tokyo, and most intriguingly, three galleries from Tehran: Ariana Art, Assar Art Gallery, and Tirgun Image Works.
Meanwhile, VIENNAFAIR, under the plucky direction of Steinbrecher and Vita Zaman (a veteran of London’s ibid gallery as well as the blue-chip Pace Gallery), is shaping up to be quite the program. Subtitled “The New Contemporary,” it has all the trappings of an older fair, including a sound program, an Occupy-inspired Fair Camp, and a yoga program led by artist Katya Bochavar.
As for galleries, VIENNAFAIR managed to snag Russian staples like Regina, Triumph, and Marina Gisich, alongside a host of Turkish galleries, including Rodeo, NON and Rampa. If that alone were not enough of the draw, the fair’s poster features full length portraits of its two comely co-directors. (“Just in case anyone doubted this was a Russian project,” a Vienna-based critic said, rolling her eyes.)
Of course, how this dynamic will play out will only be clear next week. We wish both projects well.
ArtMoscow runs from September 19 – 23 at the Central House of the Artists in Moscow. For more information, check the site.
VIENNAFAIR will run from September 20 – 23 at the Vienna Messe Wien. For more information, check the site.