ARCOmadrid_2011 exhibition view. Photo: Ilze Žeivate

Russia’s Polite Triumph at the ARCO Fair

ARCOmadrid traditionally devotes one pavilion to a different country every year. This year, Russia’s contemporary art collections had the chance to display their works. Russian art was represented by eight galleries: XL, M & J, Guelman Galerija, Aidan, Anna Nova, Marina Gisich, GMG, Paperworks, and ARKA. The works were selected by Daria Pyrkina, curator of the National Contemporary Art Center in Moscow and a professor at the Lomonosov Moscow State University. During a video interview with the press, the head of the gallery XL, Sergei Khripun, emphasized that, during the last five years, the gallery has focused its efforts on young Russian artists, who have exhibited great potential. “It’s essential to show precisely the youngest Russian artists, because, participating in international fairs, we have discovered that very few Russian artists are represented in Europe, and particularly in America. There are countless reasons for this, and it will take an hour for me to explain them all, but either way we have perceived this as our mission: to represent Russian art on an international scale. This is more of a patriotic decision than a commercial decision,” said Khripun.

At ARCO, visitors to the XL gallery exposition could check out such internationally renowned artists as Oleg Kulik, Anna Jermolaewa, and Igor Makarevich, among others. Russian art received the attention it deserved from the European mass media, and its sales didn’t lag behind other countries either, because the represented Russian artists included some who sold absolutely all of their exhibited works, for instance, Marina Alekseyeva, who was represented by the Madrid gallery LA FÁBRICA.

Yet Žeivate, assessing the achievement of Russian art at the ARCO far, expressed a slight disappointment: “Against the backdrop of all the other galleries, Russia presented itself in a very European manner. I wanted to see more of their characteristic energy and diversity, but they presented themselves too calmly and in a way that was too refined. You could not see national characteristics at all. It was a solid and respectable achievement, very finely presented, and conceptually pure, which even seemed more similar to the German galleries. But the London galleries were much more vivid. You could immediately recognize that they were English. But the Russians… Perhaps it’s because I know who Oleg Kulyik and DOU (Oleg Duryagin) are, and devote particular attention to this. It’s always nice to look at the stylistically refined exposition of the gallery Aidan, a longtime participant at ARCOmadrid. But taken overall, the achievement of the Russian gallery didn’t seem like something particularly surprising—they were contemporary, purely selected galleries. Of course, Russia doesn’t just have eight galleries, that’s why you can’t judge overall tendencies based on what you see at ARCOmadrid…”

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