What sort of things can we expect in the art spaces, museums and galleries of Moscow and St. Petersburg?
- 6th Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art - 22 September - 1 November 2015
The Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art has earned its place under the sun throughout the 12 years of its existence, mainly due to collaborations with the leading artists, curators, critics and philosophers, and also due to the usage of unusual spaces for exhibiting its Main Project. In this regard, the 6th Moscow Biennale has not changed its established traditions, but it has changed its structure.
The first ten days are allotted to the “events” part of the Biennale, which will include an extensive program of discussions and performances. The second, “exhibition” part will be held in the upcoming month and will present works created on the basis of the “events” of the Biennale. The curators of the Main Project were decided by the International Expert Council, and those appointed were Bart De Baere, director of the Museum of Modern Art MUHKA in Antwerp, Defne Ayas, director of the Center for Contemporary Art Witte de With in Rotterdam, and Nicolaus Schafhausen, director of the Kunsthalle in Vienna.
The Main Project of the Biennale will be held at VDNKh. From September 22 to October 1, the Central Hall will hold public debates, master classes with the participation of Russian and foreign representatives of different areas of art, as well as prominent scientists and public figures. Additionally, for ten days there will be artists who will create large-scale works or show performances in the presence of the public. The artists (among them are Flaka Haliti, Rana Hamadeh, Fabrice Hybert, Suchan Kinoshita, Hanne Lippard, Ho Tzu Nyen, Anton Vidokle, Peter Wächtler, Qiu Zhijie, Amalia Ulman et al.), writers (Mian Mian), cultural experts and economists (Saskia Sassen, Tom McDonough, Maya van Leemput, Yanis Varoufakis) will be looking for answers to a variety of questions, from the more general (“What is the basis for a better life?”, “Who are we, as people, as cities, as nations, and so on?”) to the more specific (“What will the future look like in Moscow?”); all in all discussing issues that can ultimately be reduced to one: “How can we live together?” After this ten-day “co-existence” event, an exhibition will be held from October 2 until November 1, and it will include artworks created during the events, as well as photo and video documentation of the discussions and performances. The Biennale becomes an experimental attempt at collective co-existence in the form of joint assertion.
Apart from the Main Project, the Moscow Biennale will also present “Special Projects”, “Special Guests” and “Parallel Program”, which will introduce to the audience the works of artists that define the face of contemporary art. The most interesting projects of independent Russian and foreign curators (as part of the 6th Moscow Biennale) will be presented at the leading exhibition venues, including the State Tretyakov Gallery, the Moscow Museum of Modern Art, the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center, and many others. All in all, this year's Biennale will hold over 80 projects at 40 exhibition venues.
The general partner of the 6th Moscow Biennale was the Latvian bank Rietumu, known for its support of projects in the Russian-Latvian cultural exchange. And as for Latvian artists, Ieva Epner will be taking part in the Biennale this year. www.6thmoscowbiennale.ru
- Boris Markevich. I Am A Graphic Designer - Artstory Gallery 10 September - 9 October 2015
Boris Markevich was one of the few who truly revolutionized graphic art and book illustration between 1950s and 1960s. He rejected the prevailing at the time principle of narrative illustration, and proposed his own approach in the form of live, mobile and energetic drawing by pen or by brush. Markevich saw the book as a complete object, in which all the elements, from text to illustrations, were to be done by the same hand. In the field of font design Markevich broke the strict horizontal lines, dramatically changed the proportions of signs by suggesting a sharp, barbed plasticity of the new tracing of the letters. The artist was seeking a new elastic key for each book. The exhibition will include around 300 works by Boris Markevich (1924-2002) created throughout his life. The earliest of the presented watercolors belong to the 1950s, and the later graphic work is from the end of the 1990s. In addition to the wide chronological scope of the works, the exhibition features a versatility of genres and themes. All mediums which the artist used are presented there: watercolors, covers of books, font composition, sketches of stamps, book illustrations for the works of Zoshchenko, Shukshin, Rasputin, Pushkin, Bulgakov, and other Russian and foreign authors. In addition to the Boris Markevich retrospective, the ARTSTORY gallery also published a collection of his illustrations, “8 Stories” by Mikhail Zoshchenko. This book is Boris Markevich’s author's version will be viewed by public for the first time in 44 years since its creation. www.art-story.com
- Vasily Slonov. Trashy Riders of the Apocalypse (Vatniki of the Apocalypse) - “11.12” Gallery, Winzavod 18 September - 30 October 2015
The main basis of Vasily Slonov’s artworks, his paintings, art objects and installations, is wadding (cotton-like substance) and its various metamorphoses. Nowadays the word ‘vata’ (meaning ‘cotton’ or ‘wadding’, the root of the word ‘vatniki’ - T.N.) is often used as a swearword but the magic of it is related to the magic of Russian swearing. All five main roots of our filthy language, above all surprises us by their polysemy and vitality. The same goes for ‘vata’. It is clear that any patriot seen from a liberal positions is certainly a ‘vatnik’ (see T.N. for ‘Vatnik’). But a radical person, after considering a few nicknames for liberals, can also state ‘oh, they are so full of vata’,” discusses Vasily Slonov. The exhibition will include a large quantity of various creations: “cotton eyes”, “cotton globe”, “cotton dildo”, “cotton automobile”, “cotton bust of the president”, “cotton udder” and so on. These are all paintings, installations and various other art objects.
Vasily Slonov is convinced that a contemporary artist is, first and foremost, not someone that can draw, but someone that can think. He hasn’t had a lot of solo exhibitions, but all of them are bold statements from the artist who is not afraid to shock.
The exhibition will take place in the “11.12” Gallery, which is situated in the Winzavod territory. www.winzavod.ru
- Evgeny Antufiev. Immortality Forever - 15 September - 18 October 2015
Moscow Museum of Modern Art presents a solo exhibition of the 2009 Kandinsky prize winner Evgeny Antufiev titled “Immortality Forever”. The large-scale study of the phenomenon of Russian culture with the help of various media takes the form of absolute installations which will occupy the entire third floor of the main building of the museum at Petrovka 25. The artist refers to the images of major figures in Russian culture such as Leo Tolstoy and Anna Pavlova. By means of specially made porcelain replica of the cake “Anna Pavlova” from the menu of many restaurants in Moscow, and collected postcards picturing the grave of Leo Tolstoy, Antufiev ironically reminisces about the amazing phenomenon of fetishizing an object and projecting it onto the cult of personality. The artist skillfully intertwines private and family histories into the context of the exhibition, thus immortalizing them forever. Folk embroidery made on vintage fabrics from his mother's old chest are preserved in their original state in glass frames, hiding from the outside world. Graphic works that were done by the artist’s grandmother, advised so by her doctor after a stroke, occupy a separate room in the exhibition. Therefore these seemingly childish and clumsy pictures reveal an entire life story, woven out of personal memories.
Antufiev collects scattered worldwide elements of Russian culture and combines them with the help of historical memory. This synthesis is the new vision, utopian in nature, but at the same time very real. This project’s presented video art works, embroidery, drawings, photography and others form a complete picture, which raises the question of the true essence of the cultural code and determines what is its immortality.
- Suspense - Ekaterina Cultural Foundation 17 September - 1 November 2015
By using archeological methods and the experience of historical reconstruction, the creators of the project “Suspense” recreate the cultural layer of our time from faulty photographs and failed selfies. The current age of high-speed and mobile technology allows us to record all the random moments of our lives, but it does not leave time for their understanding and emotional experience. The impressions from a mountain landscape, a sporting event or a bright costume of a snowboarder “will live” for about a minute, as a spectacular post to be seen in the reel of social media. Tearing these moments away from the flow of time and translating them into a category in art, the artist creates a new space that allows us to rethink familiar stories and images.
To achieve their goal, the contributing creators of the project, who have traditionally worked in the genre of installation, appealed to the classic forms of fine arts such as painting and sculpture. Some of the exhibited works are really paintings and sculptures in their traditional subsistence. However, throughout the exhibition noticeable metamorphoses occur to them, the paintings turn into 3-D installation, sometimes come into direct contact with the audience, and polychrome sculptures seek to convey the moment of unfinished movements. The series “Delete image” consists of 3-D panels that guide the movement of the viewer around the room, and at the same time mimic an alpine skiing course. Here the paintings are bent at an angle like crumpled photographs to form a 3-D free-form, and they partly assume the function of sculpture. And as for the last room of the exhibition, the installation “Track” is presented there, which is a painting that simulates an integral screen for sports broadcasting. The installation is accompanied by sound: you hear the sound of the wind in the mountains, the movement of athletes on the slopes. But on the giant screen field made up of eighteen square canvases, traces of boards and skis are visible, as if the snow-white field is also in suspense and “waiting for action”. www.ekaterina-fondation.ru
- Chinese Contemporary Art. Releasing the Present from the Past - Loft Project Etagi 3 - 23 September 2015
A new large-scale exhibition called “Chinese Contemporary Art. Releasing the Present from the Past” is opening at the Loft Project Etagi on September 3. This exposition includes 37 artists from Peking, Hong-Kong, Taipei, Tianjin, Guangzhou, Changsha, Shenyang, and also Chinese artists living in France, Switzerland, Sweden and the USA. The exhibition will feature painting, sculpture, video art, performances, installations, new media art, and altogether there will be 61 artworks presented.
The press release of the exhibition states that “modern Chinese art of the 20th century overcame a difficult path starting from criticizing the society and official art to a deeper interest in the roots... More and more artists are starting to pay attention to the transformation of the society, trying to find the link between contemporary life and traditions. In Chinese art nowadays the Chinese style has become popular, but this interest has nothing to do with what Europe experienced 200 years ago. It is not a pursuit of the exotic adapting to the aesthetic preferences of others, but a critical reassessment of their own traditions with the subsequent restoration of them. Artists selected to participate in this exhibition through a variety of genres and techniques unite their creativity with the traditional Chinese culture.” www.loftprojectetagi.ru
- Yevgeny Yufit. Positive Regression - NAMEGALLERY 25 September - 14 November 2015
Contemporary art gallery NAMEGALLERY is opening a new season of exhibitions on September 4 with a personal project by Yevgeny Yufit called “Positive Regression”. The exhibition space will present new paintings by the artist and his landscape pictures taken with a “pinhole” camera. For the project “Positive regression” Yufit specifically made large-scale triptychs resembling fragments of black-and-white films about the world beyond, made of darkness and barbed wire. The main characters of the canvases (and creepy at the same time) are grotesque zooanthropomorphic creations which, when combined in a chain-link, either seek to cut each other, or to merge into an ecstasy of love.
“The necro-art of Yufit is becoming increasingly important in today's world, as one of its characteristics is the neo-positivity of science together with his faith in scientific and technological progress. The name of the project, “Positive regression”, marks the effect of the so-called “high-tech dementia”: with evolution the machines are getting smarter, and their so-called users are less and less in need of possessing an independent mind,” says the exhibition's curator, Victor Mazin, founder of the Sigmund Freud Dream Museum and the chief editor of the magazine “Cabinet”. www.namegallery.ru
 Translator’s note: The Russian word “Ватники” (Vatniki) has a few meanings. “Vatnik” is a quilted jacket made from wadding or cotton (“vata”), but it is also a recent nickname for Russian nationalists and Putin supporters, who more often than not dress in a particular style, especially incorporating quilted jackets into their wardrobes. Seen as simple-minded, brain-washed, trashy layers of society, Vatniki becomes a whole phenomenon for Slonov as he incorporated both meanings of the word into his exhibition, thus commenting on the political situation and straining it though his artistic point of view. A similar phenomenon in English might be “white trash” in America or “chavs” in Britain. Since the title of the exhibition alludes to the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”, it is impossible to incorporate all these elements into the title in English. Winzavod translated the exhibition title as “Quilted Cavaliers of the Apocalypse” but it doesn’t quite portray the political/societal angle of the original title.