Today, the Russian internet went wild as the federal government sentenced popular opposition leader and would-be Moscow mayoral candidate Alexey Navalny to five years in prison and a $15,000 fine after finding him guilty of trumped-up charges of embezzlement (all based on one man’s testimony – a testimony ludicrously off-limits for cross-examination, at that.) This set off the social media networks – an area where Navalny had previously held court over Putin – who rapidly organized a protest march on Moscow’s Manege. The Kremlin promptly let it be known that these protests should be reconsidered. Now we watch and see (and keep our fingers crossed for safety for both sides?)
In no way intending to belittle the shock, outrage, or righteous indignation stirred up by this move (which is seen by many as pulling the curtain back on the pantomime of the democratic process), we were in the middle of another update when the Navalny verdict broke. As the question hangs in the air as to whether or not Russia can ever experience true change, we would like to continue our report of transition on a much smaller scale: namely, ArtMoscow.
Once coasting on the promise of oligarchs to come, ArtMoscow struggled to find its audience, trying every trick it could – from a Mitteleuropa theme of German galleries, to recruiting the admirable, unstoppable Christina Steinbrecher, to work her magic (which is currently reshaping the Vienna Art Fair.) According to Artguide, ArtMoscow expert committee (and commissar of the Moscow Biennale, which is set to take place at the same time) Joseph Backstein reported that ArtMoscow will get a rejuvenating facelift this year. The much slimmer fair will now pair 15 established galleries with 15 emerging galleries in a section called New Platform, which features a €5,000 price cap. This may be a step in the right direction in terms of being realistic about Moscow’s audience. After all, the storied Russians flocking to ArtBasel rarely make appearances in the Expo Park. (Now Gorky Park..? That’s a different story.)
We’ll find out what a difference these changes bring, when the fair opens September 18. For more information on the fair, check the official ArtMoscow website. You can find the full report on Artguide (in Russian.)