Thankfully, Artguide is back to publishing their daily news updates, kicking off with a column by St Petersburg-based curator Anna Matveeva, who highlighted the ups and downs of the season. Among the ups was the newly-opened Museum of Power, which may headlines only when local authorities objected to a tacky tourist painting of Putin in a negligee, lovingly brushing a brassiéred-Medvedev’s hair. We’re not going to post it, as that picture has already made more than enough rounds on social networks, and something about the artist’s immediate plea for asylum in France and his wife’s campaign to raise funds makes us question the math.
We did think now would be a good time to update on some of our recent posts. As we write this, Manifesta Director Hedwig Fijen and curator Kasper Koenig are in St Petersburg, reinforcing their commitment to hold Manifesta 10 in the city. In a statement made public on August 30, 2013, the Manifesta Foundation declares:
The Manifesta Foundation was founded on principals of engagement, dialogue, debate and education. The nomadic character of Manifesta aims to establish closer dialogue between cultures within the broader, international fields of contemporary art, theory and politics in a changing society and in possibly contested areas. On principle Manifesta cannot and should not only perform in the ‘safe haven’ of the West or former West. This inevitably involves dialogue with those with whom we may disagree.
Fijen maintains, “To withdraw would mean to ignore the voices of our contemporaries and emerging generations in Russia.” For his part, Koenig seems less interested in the politics and more in the Hermitage’s impressive collection of Matisses (yes, those very same paintings Irina Antonova was eyeing for the Pushkin Museum.)
As for the matter with Sergey-Bugaev Afrika and the New Artists? For those who haven’t caught up, basically a group of the New Artists – who thrived in the squat years of Perestroika, painting on whatever was at hand – were taken aback to discover works that they thought were long-lost to them alive and well at an exhibition, listed as “From the Private Collection of Sergey-Bugaev Afrika.” This summary is in Russian, but it features a rather nice video montage for those who are unfamiliar with the art work or the ASSA-era culture. There are even snippets from the film, which made a name for Afrika – even if that name may have been Malchik Bananan (“Bananana Boy.”)
As far as the case, St Petersburg’s Dzerzhinsky Court has promised that it will be some time before it is resolved. Afrika’s argument currently contends that the signatures on the paintings are not enough to establish authorship, banking on the fact that the artists lack court-admissable proof that the works are indeed their own (again, this was a time of squats, not of documenting your every drawing.) In his rather extravagant defense, Afrika responded: “This is just the cry of strange little animals, tiny little jackals who want to attack the bigger, stronger animal. I won’t take offense.” (Let’s hope his defense lies on his charm…?)
Lastly, in the midst of all of this, New Holland – the Garage‘s elegant little sister, set on the old shipyard and navy base, on an island in the center of St Petersburg – is ending its three-year summer program, “Summer on New Holland,” which gave city-dwellers and visitors alike a taste of the island to come. After this week, the island will close down for renovation, reopening only in 2017.
As part of its closing festivities, New Holland will host an exhibition of “New Beginnings,” on view from September 7-15, 2013. The exhibition will tell the history of three summers of programming, with appearances by the Bruce High Quality Foundation, Gosha Rubchinsky, and the Museum of Everything, among myriad others. APERTO gallery will also help host RADIUS, an experimental laboratory which looks at the limits of emoticons (courtesy of the wonderful Protey Temen), Twitter Suprematism (ala Andrey Keske), and public sculpture out of hashtags. For the full program, check here.
With the Moscow Biennale just around the bend, we look forward to a new season of events in Russia, while keeping in mind that it isn’t all fun and games (and hashtags.) The increasingly complex political and social situation provides ample material for artists to respond. Let’s prove Hedwig Fijen’s belief about the power of art right?