twitter facebook
Vienna is showing a renewed interest in Russian-made contemporary art

Russian Renaissance: Panem (et circenses) 0

Hugo Engelbrecht

Photos: Hugo Engelbrecht

Exhibition “Russian Renaissance” is on view at Brot Kunsthalle, Vienna, through February 27

It does not happen too often that you can watch a monothematic show on a dedicated country without boldly delivered propaganda because of the big money the country poured into the event. But “Russian Renaissance”, an exhibition about the state of the art of current Russian art production, comes completely without any Russian logotype. And no diplomats were seen Tuesday night at the opening.

“Migrant workers”. C-prints by Sergey Chilikov

Lena Lapschina. “Every Person Needs A Friend”

From AES+F to Blue Noses, the exhibition at Brot Kunsthalle Vienna celebrates a nice name-dropping of internationally acclaimed, Russian-born artists. The faustpatron photoshop series from PG, the “Migrant workers” C-prints from Sergey Chilikov, documentary-style photography from Anastasia Khoroshilova (who is frequently shown at Hilger Contemporary), and the ancient, nine square meter banner “New Liberty” from AES+F allow the visitors to catch a glimpse into the world of the most-talked about Russian-speaking artists. Also in the main hall, one can find some currently Vienna-based artists, like Lena Lapschina, who is showing her Siberian photo series “Every Person Needs A Friend” (Duratrans, lightbox, wood).

Vienna is showing a renewed interest in Russian-made contemporary art. (Left: “New Liberty” by AES+F)

Ystina Yakovleva's drawings are flowing out of the canvas onto the entire wall

Enfant terrible Alexander Brener is represented with small Brener/Schurz labeled coloured-pencil-on-paper drawings, kindergarten-style pieces spiced up with notorious sexuality. Next to them, the fragile and contemplative drawings of young Ystina Yakovleva are flowing out of the canvas onto the entire wall.

With its 400 square meters of exhibition space, the Brot Kunsthalle – named after the chlebnaya fabrika which the building was part of until two years ago – is the biggest gallery premises in town, operated by Ernst Hilger. As already mentioned, he has established strong connections to the Russian art market. For “Russian Renaissance”, he teamed up with Hans Knoll, the owner of Knoll Galleries in Vienna and Budapest, who has built long-lasting relations to Russia and who sells the most expensive Russian names in Austria and the surrounding countries. They hired Moscow-based curatrice Vasilina Allakhverdieva to tell the great story of the state of the empire.

“Russian Renaissance” is curated by Vasilina Allakhverdieva

Contemporary Moscow, as seen by Victoria Lomasko just some days ago

Well, visitors will miss the ultimate cutting-edge position of Voina, who were said to have refused to take part in a group show. But they got Kandinsky-nominee Vika Lomasko with black-and-red sketches of the recent uprisings in Moscow. (At Knoll Gallery right now runs a personal show with drawings from “Tagansky Justice”, the book edited by Vika and Anton Nikolaev on the occasion of the Yerofeyev-trial.) Nikolaev aka Bombily is present with the performance video “Invitation/Whipping”. Further political statements come from Victor Ribas, who found tanks and katyushy in his arsenal and portrayed them with a laser gun and extra-slow shutter speed.

Polina Kanis is metaphorically remembering her childhood, trying to catch “Eggs”

A glimpse from the balcony in hall 2 (with “Breads” by Anatoly Osmolovsky in the background)

The second hall also features video work by Polina Kanis (“Eggs”, 17', 2010) and Dmitry Bulnygin, sculptures by Vladimir Anselm, some more untitled pencil drawings by Ivan Gorshkov, and some more photography: photoshopped old “Breads” by Anatoly Osmolovsky and Inuit-folklore pics by formerly Peter-Weibel-copy Oleg Kulik.

Visitors at the vernissage filming the “Home Video” series, a Blue Noses work wearing a 680k Euro price tag

The third, smaller room is dedicated to a one-million-dollar-piece from Blue Noses, the “Famos” or “Home Video” series. After years of showing similar video work in boxes made of waste corrugated paper, two years ago they teamed up with Swarovski to produce a glitter-version of video installations, camouflaging Slava Mizin's secret dreams of Swan Lake dancers, King Kong, Marilyn and Madonna with the shiny building on Fifth Avenue. (The series consists of four objects/videos – Empire State, Taj Mahal, Mausolei Lenina and Cheops's pyramid; edition of two.)

Unfortunately, the initimacy of the Swarovski Blue Noses is disturbed by a loud video installation which would have fit much better into one of the other halls. The piece, apparently a leftover from last year's Viennafair, is Kirill Chelushkin's “Scaphander”. Already gone is “Temporary Toys”, a flock of crocodile-shaped frozen coloured water: Rina Grinn placed them outside the building, and since temperature turned to +10°C the day after the opening, a kind of otepel began…

Gone with the wind and the rain: “Temporary Toys” by Rina Grinn

And what about the Renaissance? “It lays in the essence of Russian art, soul, philosophy and life, and from time to time it used to burst out in the form of the absurd and cruel Russian riot. Or, as we already see on Bolotnaya Square and Sakharov prospect, in the form of well-organised civilian marches,” says curator Vasilina Allakhverdieva.

Brot Kunsthalle
10th district, Absberggasse 27 / Stair 1
Vienna, Austria