Last week, Putin officially signed off on the new Council for Culture and the Arts, whose list includes Moscow Multimedia Art Museum Director Olga Sviblova, Semyon Mikhailovsky, Director of St Petersburg’s Art Academy, and Mikhail Piotrovsky, Director of the Hermitage. (NB: Artguide reported that musician Andrey Makarevich, who voiced support for Pussy Riot, has been cut from the roster.) Yesterday, this group convened to discuss, among other things, the “cultural fast food” currently threatening Russian society.
Part of this “fast food” seems to be homegrown. (No, not those baked potato stands.) On September 4, a special council workshop was held to debate the plans of the National Center for Contemporary Art to erect a museum tower. (For more images of the tower, which would now stand in currently underused Baumanskaya district, check here.) Odds are overwhelmingly against the 16-story museum, which was attacked as “outdated,” a product of the era of “Starchitecture.” (An “era” that, should one follow their arguments, would have seemed to have come and gone over the course of but one decade.) As NCCA director Mikhail Mindlin informed us during the NCCA-sponsored Ural Biennial, “Everyone is telling us the trend now is taking over old factories. But that WAS the trend five years ago, and now there are no unclaimed old factories anywhere within the city limits.”
The matter, as they tend to, really comes down to money. In 2009, the NCCA was awarded 5 billion rubles (roughly $160 million) towards the project – money which, should the tower not be built by the deadline of 2016, would be returned to the budget for culture. Alexander Mamut, the prime backer behind the Strelka Institute, and Anton Belov, the Moscow-based Director of the Garage, were both outspoken advocates of this money being funneled to private enterprises (an attractive option for a state still trying to wash its hands of Pussy Riot.) Mamut, it would appear, has even offered to effectively supplant the NCCA, with a series of Strelka outposts throughout the provinces.
Competition isn’t just coming from the Garage and Strelka. One could argue that Moscow has more spaces than artists capable of filling them. Once the interim playground of Sviblova (while her thriving MMAM was still in construction), the Moscow Manege is now at the forefront of these spaces. Once the bastion of Honey Fairs (Moscow’s previous mayor had a notorious fondness for the stuff), the Manege (with its adjacent “New Manege”) have been transferred into the capable hands of Marina Loshak, who has been steadily dropping jaws with her shows of textiles and “folk art” at Proun gallery.
During a September 17 press conference, Manege – represented by Loshak and Moscow Minister of Culture Sergey Kapkov – bowled over the competition, announcing a program studded with crowd-pleasers like Daniel Buren (who had a mesmerizing turn in the Grand Palais), Yayoi Kusama (who has placed New York under polka-dotted siege with her recent Whitney exhibition), and, of course, Banksy (though one wonders if his Voina-bailing days might complicate the transfer of state funds to his exhibition..?) If all goes as planned, this venue could be the venue Moscow needs to take on traveling exhibitions and partnerships with the world’s leading cultural institutions. (We said “if.”)
Moscow got a first look at how this new space plays out last night with the world premiere of AES+F‘s “Trilogy.” Reports from the opening floor tended to be raves (some interesting perspectives presented here, albeit in Russian), but we look forward to reading more about how this “new” space develops.
Also, we wanted to extend our gratitude to Artguide, for their diligence in covering these events as they unfold. They have been an invaluable resource for us!