Less than a month after reporting the firing of the fabled Marat Guelman from his post after a censorship snafu, the Museum of Modern Art PERMM – the go-to institution for “Yes! There CAN be Art in the Provinces!” arguments – is set to make yet another critical personnel move, bumping newly-instated director Elena Oleinikova from her position after a request from the Ministry of Culture, in a letter marked July 17, 2013.
The situation involved the international civil society forum Pilorama [“Sawmill”], which brings together all aspects of civil society into a multi-day discussion. More at stake, it seems, is the Ministry of Culture’s relationship to regional museums. Oleinikova gave her version of the events on her Facebook page [Our translation here]:
I have worked with the Museum of Modern Art PERMM since almost the first day of its formation, and I know perfectly well all the processes going on the museum and its internal workings. The main request that Marat Guelman, as one of the founders of PERMM, made to me was to keep the museum working smoothly and quietly, to avoid all possible scandals that could come up in one way or another. Accordingly, I saw my main task as to preserve the museum as a platform for exhibitions of contemporary art, for the nurture and support of quality projects, as a space for holding meaningful events, as well as to bring up a team of trained museum professionals.
For these reasons, when the organizers of the Pilorama Forum, which had to move this year after insufficient funding, approached us to see if we would consider hosting the discussion platform, my answer was positive, particularly as this program was founded by the local authorities.
However, shortly thereafter, representatives from the regional Ministry of Culture begin to put pressure on us, demanding that we do not hold the forum on the territory of the museum. After a long negotiation, I was able to maintain the right to have the discussions, although almost immediately after I left for a business trip, the official order I had issued was torn up and the Ministry of Culture sent the museum another order – the order to remove me from a place of leadership within the museum.
Read the Russian original here.
PERMM was a magnificent (if slightly misguided) effort at extending the Russian Art World past Moscow. We would hope newly-installed replacement Elena Petrova [we’re trying to figure out which “Elena Petrova” this is, as that’s like hiring a “Mary Johnson”] will continue to build on the promise that PERMM once held. We would also hope that Ministry of Culture can reach a balance between fearing controversy and finding a way to realistically, productively contribute to civil society. As for Oleinikova? Her post would lead us to believe she would still be willing to continue work with the museum in some other capacity. The museum itself has made no statement.