“It feels so Soviet.”
“Yeah, but it’s hiding capitalism.”
So Sasha and I summed up my feelings about one of the biggest annual art events in Russia. Nearly forty galleries gather at the immense Central House of Artists in Moscow to showcase their latest collections with the intention of creating “an ideal environment for the exhibition of art work”. This objective, along with the event’s claim to focus on emerging and evolving international tendencies, regrettably faltered.
Art Moskva was evidently put together with lab mice rather than art enthusiasts in mind. Each gallery sets up inside a succession of a small cubical like spaces that feed into each other, leaving you almost no choice but to continue on in the maze of exhibits. Given the sheer number of works it’s hardly surprising I couldn’t stop thinking about VDNKh as Sasha and I wandered the labyrinth. VDNKh, the All-Russian Exhibition Center, consist of several dozen imposing pavilions that once housed showcases of the latest soviet technologies and agriculture techniques. Though the showcases were intended to unite the soviet states they more often fostered competition as each republic wanted to have been at the wheel of the biggest tractor and to have raised the tallest stalk of wheat. “Art Moskva” retains that biggest tractor at the fair feel but the competition here is for something other than communist prestige.
The event promises to be “an offer which the culturally well educated population with… its growing prosperity likes to take advantage of.” Basically this means the red delicious piled high in ceramic bowls beside the dull glow of wine are not there for me but to bait the Armani clad New Russians. Unfortunately, the risk of monetary incentive has been and always will be an abandonment of actual innovation. Take, for instance, the work of Anastasia Zaborovskaya, who (lacking ideals of her own) in her painting of a sportsmanlike Soviet torso and a dreamt up satellite complex claims she seeks to trace the history of ideals. Idealism without ideals is an idea disturbing enough to be interesting; however Ms. Zaborovskaya’s execution lacked real thought – a problem common to the art displayed.
“Art Moskva” essentially encapsulates so much of what’s wonderful and what’s frustrating about Moscow. It promises much and offers much in quantity but the apple, even when it’s offered to those who aren’t wearing Armani, seldom comes with the taste of enlightenment.