Pavilion Politics, Power-Players and a lot of Prizes

Yuri Albert, In My Work I've Hit a Crisis..., 1983

Yuri Albert, In My Work I’ve Hit a Crisis…, 1983

We promised this post would be on prizes, and there were certainly plenty given out this week: the Art Newspaper Russia‘s new award, the St Petersburg-based Kurokhin Prize, and of course, the National Center for Contemporary Art’s Innovation Prize, which was awarded last night, and the Moscow Museum of Multimedia Art’s Golden Camera, which will be announced later today.

First, however, we had a few updates around Grigory Revzin’s dismissal from his post as Commissioner of the Russian Pavilion for the Venice Biennale of Architecture. Two days ago, we wrote that the reasons were officially unknown, though we had an inkling it had something to do with Revzin’s work as a journalist, providing social commentary as a columnist for GQ (which, even in Russia, is still more Q+A than T+A.)  In a conversation with Interview Russia, Revzin – who was quickly replaced with Semyon Mikhailovsky, rector of St Petersburg’s Repin Institute for Painting, Sculpture and Architecture and one of the signees on the petition of cultural workers in support of Putin’s actions in the Krimea – states quite frankly that: “It’s not about the exhibition concept, it’s about personal loyalty. Mikhailovsky signed his name to a petition, and I signed mine to a column.” While Revzin insists he had no intent to crusade against Russia and only wanted to showcase the best of what the country can offer, architecture-wise, he riles against the idea that the Minister of Culture should serve as a Minister of Ideology, an idea hauntingly not far from realization (right now there’s a bill up for debate that would cancel government support – both funding and legal protection – for contemporary art that counters “Russian” values.)

The entire interview is available (in Russian) here.

Now on to the Prize Round-Up. (Get a fresh cup of coffee – this will be a long one.)

The Art Newspaper Russia astounds and confounds with its II Annual Award Ceremony

A scene from The Art Newspaper Award's "tribute" to Roman Abramovich and Dasha Zhukova

A scene from The Art Newspaper Award’s “tribute” to Roman Abramovich and Dasha Zhukova

Let’s start with the The Art Newspaper Russia awards, which were announced April 4. A newcomer in every sense, this was only the second year the prizes were given, as the franchise still struggles to fill the void left by ArtChronika, Black Square, and other Russian art magazines. The categories are pretty straight-forward, with the addition of one for Best Restoration, which we can’t help but applaud (especially when masterpieces like the Melnikov House and Narkomfin have met such obstacles securing funding.) This year the award went to the Alvar Aalto library in Vyborg. The state Tretyakov’s survey of Natalia Goncharova was named Exhibition of the Year; Olga Sviblova’s Museum of Multimedia Art Moscow was named Museum of the Year; and the Book of the Year went to Stella Art Foundation’s director of development, Nikolai Molok, for his history of Russian pavilions for the Venice Biennale (Topical. Very topical.)

The real Precious Moment of the evening, however, was the award for Personal Contribution, which went to Roman Abramovich and Dasha Zhukova. As, understandably, the awardees were a no-show, the organizers of the event arranged a play instead, in which the Dasha character tries to distract the Roman figure from his dealings with Chelsea, then gives up and reads an Art Newspaper Russia. Roman, realizing the folly of his ways, then enlists 007 to round up all the great art works of the world in an effort to win Dasha back. All to remixed Amy Winehouse. You can watch it here on TV Dozhd. (Go to Part III. It starts around the 10 minute mark.)

Kuryokhin Prize offers a glimpse at the Russian Art World beyond Moscow

Ivan Sotnikov, Battle with Squirrel

From “Battle with Squirrel,” an exhibition of Ivan Sotnikov at Navicula Artis

Always the underdog in these things, the Kuryokhin Prize – named in honor of composer Sergey Kuryokhin – has kicked up its game this year, moving the ceremony into the Hermitage (soon to be the site of Manifesta.) The nominees tend to reflect the nuances in Petersburg’s scene, particularly the bend towards the theatrical, as evidenced by the main winner, Peter Aidu, a sound installation artist. Other awards went to Timya Radya (who hails from Ekaterinburg) and Group PROVMYZA (from Nizhny Novgorod), but the prize that got us the most excited was the award to Gleb Ershov of Navicula Artis, for his curatorial project, “Battle with Squirrel.” Navicula Artis is a small gallery within the Pushkinskaya-10 complex, but it’s served as the epicenter of the more esoteric elements in the city’s art scene for years. We’re very happy to see them getting some attention!

Yuri Albert and Katya Degot take the top prize at Innovation

A still from Sasha Pirogova's film BIBLIMEN (2013.)

A still from Sasha Pirogova’s film BIBLIMEN (2013.)

Last’s night’s ceremony saw XL Gallery’s Elena Selina clinch Best Curatorial Project for the two-part “Reconstruction” show, presented with the Garage and the Ekaterina Foundation. The Krasnodar-based ZIP Group won for Best Regional Project, Kaliningrad curator Dmitry Bulatov took home the prize in Theory, Criticism and Art History, and the emerging artist award went to Sasha Pirogova, for her video BIBLIMEN (2013.)  The top honor, however, went to Yuri Albert and Katya Degot, who won Best Work of Art for their collaboration “And What Did the Artist Intend to Say with This?,” a retrospective of Albert’s playfully frustrating repertoire. (This makes it quite a big year for Degot.)

The evening also included a nod to ArtChronika Foundation – now BREUS Foundation, but we’ll get to that – founder Shalva Breus, for his contributions to art. Also honored was Vlad Mamyshev-Monroe, a tribute which might seem quite daring, for Russia (though admittedly, the move pales when compared to, say, the exhibition on homosexuality in  Africa, planned for Dak’Art.) We appreciated Artguide’s Masha Kravtsova‘s observation on Facebook about how while Putin was name-checked repeatedly during the ceremony, no one actually said his name, instead resorting to complicated phrasing to indicate the one in power. Her readers were quick to draw the Voldemort parallel, so we didn’t have to.

Kandinsky Prize sees a change of Name, but not of Heart

Moscow's Udarnik Theatre, soon to be the site of the BREUS Foundation's museum

Moscow’s Udarnik Theatre, soon to be the site of the BREUS Foundation’s museum

Of course, all of the prizes mentioned above are still seen as secondary, behind the ArtChronika Foundation’s Kandinsky Prize, which is typically awarded in December. The closure of ArtChronika Magazine – seemingly the foundation’s namesake – had some scratching their heads as to how the prize might continue, but the foundation’s head, collector Shalva Breus, seemed undeterred in his mission, which includes converting the Udarnik Theatre into a private museum.

Today, Artguide announced that Breus has rebranded his foundation, which from this day forth shall be known as the BREUS Foundation. Additionally, Breus has kicked off the architectural competition to design his museum, which is now slated to open in 2016. Current architects in the running include the very international assortment of Arata Isozaki & Associates (Japan), Stephan Braunfels Architekten (Germany),  Designed by Erick van Egeraat (Netherlands), Emre Arolat Architects (Turkey), John McAslan + Partners (Great Britain), and Robbrecht en Daem architecten (Belgium). While we suppose the cosmopolitanism should be encouraging, and it will be wonderful to see some new life breathed into the Russian Constructivist building (which, in its Post-Soviet tenure has served as a car dealership, a really cheesy casino, and a middling sushi spot offering Biznez Launch with a view), we can’t help but wonder about Russian architects (particularly after MEL – located a hop, skip and a jump from Udarnik in our former home, the Red October Chocolate Factory – had such a strong showing in the NCCA tender.)

The finalists should be announced in June.


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