Moscow’s First Biennial
January 28 to February 18
Since the mayor of Venice initiated a biennial exposition of contemporary art over a hundred years ago, cities as far flung as Sao Paolo and Shanghai have asserted their cultural prowess by hosting biennials of their own. Moscow will join these ranks on January 28. However, rather than devoting each of the festival’s expositions to the art of a single country, as is traditional at the Venice Biennial and others, the six curators of Moscow’s exposition have used criteria of their own and assembled works by artists of different nationalities under the same roof.
A hope shared by the organizers and Minister of Culture Mikhail Shvydkoi, who introduced the idea, is that the Biennial will speed up Moscow’s reintegration with the international art world. Currently, Moscow is home to less than a dozen galleries that sell contemporary art, far fewer than other major European cities; however, artists and curators find encouragement in the fact that the number of galleries has been growing steadily as more and more Muscovites come to see contemporary art as a viable investment. The Russian artists who will display their works in the Biennial’s parallel programs hope that the exposure will generate local and international interest in Moscow’s burgeoning art scene.
Meanwhile, the 42 artists participating in the Biennial’s main program will come with expectations of their own, as they try to create works that engage the Russian context. Cuban artist Carlos Garaicoa’s planned installation features Cuban banners and billboards that draw on propaganda techniques invented in the USSR. Garaicoa has photographed Havana’s socialist street art, and plans to turn thumbnail-sized versions of his pictures into stamps by framing them in vintage designs issued by the Soviet postal service. Garaicoa hopes his artwork will someday be sold as real stamps. “I’d like to see someone in New York get a letter from Moscow postmarked with a stamp that pictures a socialist billboard in Havana,” said Garaicoa. This is the sort of provocative international exchange that Moscow’s biennial, dubbed Dialectic of Hope, is meant to encourage.
The First Moscow Biennial of Contemporary Art will run from January 28 to February 18 at the Historical Museum, the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, the Tretyakov Gallery, the Schusev Museum of Architecture, the Moscow Museum of Contemporary Art and Vorobyovy Gory metro station. Check the Biennial’s official site, www.moscowbiennale.ru, for updates and details.