Follow me on Instagram
© Ian Gonczarow 2008
Sushi Magazine 2011
The Russian Condition:
Art and Culture in Moscow.
Let me introduce myself. My name is Ian Gonczarow and I’m a Brit living and working in Moscow as an artist and educator. I first moved here in September 2009 to work as a tutor on the Foundation in Art and Design course at the British Higher School of Art and Design. Currently I am planning the structure of the BA (Hons) Fine Art course that will begin September 2011, which I will lead. I graduated from my BA at Northumbria University in Newcastle in 1999, and after practicing as an artist and working as a freelance educator/ art teacher for almost 8 years, I myself returned to education. I took the MFA Art Practice at Goldsmiths University of London graduating in 2009.
When I first began to think about formulating this article for Sushi13, I imagined that it would take an ultra critical approach to the situation in Moscow for art and artists, but in all honesty, ask me what I think on a different day, you might get a different answer.
So lets explore both sides of the cultural coin in an attempt at a well-balanced discussion, as in my opinion a little critical honesty mixed with a lot of positivity is what the art scene in Moscow needs right now.
My background knowledge and understanding of Russia and its capital Moscow was rather obviously tainted by the western media of the 1980’s and early 1990’s, when all we saw on TV was the parade of nukes through Red Square past ailing despot rulers. However I do have a more personal link to Russia and that comes from my late grandfather Nikalay (hence my Russian Surname) who left Russia in the 1940’s. So my expectations were very mixed.
I first arrived in Moscow in September 2009. The city was experiencing an ‘Indian summer’ and temperatures were still +20. That was a little surprising for a westerner naively expecting snow, snow and more snow. The Moscow Biennale was on in the major venues in town so I got my first impression of the climate in more ways than one.
Moscow is a very beautiful city. Wide boulevards ring the city in concentric circles, the innermost ring is lined with parks and gardens and is walk-able in a couple of hours. The biggest initial surprise for me was the large amount of Baroque architecture, painted in pastel shades that gives the city a ‘very European’ feel where least expected. You might be in Paris suddenly, as you turn from large streets into quieter lanes. Mix a little of the feel of Paris then, with the utilitarian feel of parts of Prague and then the mass and tangle of the streets of Budapest or London, and you come close to an idea of the metropolis that Moscow is.
But details are lacking in the most basic of ways. The Americans are often accused of being ‘gas guzzlers’ for their love of the giant 4x4 cars and SUV’s. Come to Moscow! In a city with absolutely no control over its traffic nightmare, cars lurch across pavements invading the pedestrian space. Parking is permissible anywhere, any time, despite the problems this may cause. Whether it is across a tram track, thus blocking said trams causing hideous tail backs; or in front of the electric bus routes, causing backups of up to 15 buses at rush hour. The lack of control is astounding. Add to those congested streets no visible drainage system or gutters, contributing to metre wide puddles from the winter melt, and the progress of pedestrians is again hampered as they are forced to take wide detours whilst simultaneously dodging cars.
You may be thinking that a discussion of art has not yet begun. But in fact I would like to suggest that the Russian mentality towards art seems to share the same fate as the pedestrian on the street. The Muscovite can walk the streets of the city in a rainstorm, past vast puddles of black water without getting their feet wet. Why? Perhaps because that is the way it has always been and people adapt? Dancing across puddles, side stepping, bobbing and weaving – a street ballet. The artists in this city suffer the same blocks to progress from their educational roots, the gallery and governmental systems that are in place.
As an art educator in Moscow, I quickly realised that the existing art education system was strangely flawed. Lots of students were applying for the Foundation in Art and Design course that our school offers with very similar looking portfolios. Mostly containing very classic academic drawings in the style of Da Vinci, alongside paintings from still life rendered in a semi-realistic style, with no real influence of the colour work from early modern artists like Matisse or Derain. Not that the modernist model should be gospel when it comes to still life painting, but for students to understand colour and still life these guys are essential references. And adding white to a highlight or black to a shadow is lazy painting and lazy teaching.
There are big gaps here in contemporary culture. These gaps that are taken for granted and filled by artists in other countries or cultures with ease. Of course, when Stalin took control in the late 1920’s, there were massive purges of intellectuals, writers, poets and artists in the years that followed. Indeed, after a very short period of time, the only artwork being produced in Russia was at the bequest of the regime to fill the mind and spirit of the population with its own propagandist self image. Gone were the abstract works of the Avant-garde or the architectural ideas of the constructivists. The Russian Avant-garde was quickly and smoothly replaced by wedding cake skyscrapers (as in Carl Marx alee in Berlin) and paintings filled with red flags, happy farmers and the Stalin god figure, shaking hands with peasant and worker alike. But that of course is the past, so what is Russia’s present?
My experience of art and culture in Moscow is often an explosive one. My first encounter with a pastiche of Kazimir Malevich’s famous Black Square of 1915 was quite exciting, considering I had yet to experience the original. But multiply that encounter by at least 50 and it quickly loses its appeal.
But it seems that the art of the early part of last century still has a sizable impact on contemporary art made today. It is particularly interesting to visit contemporary shows filled with references to this time period as a marker for the now.
In the west we are no longer referencing Modernism via the Post-Modern model. In fact we have spent several years in an ongoing critique with Modernism. Deconstruction of structuralist thought written 80-90 years ago is much more the preoccupation of today. So it feels alarmingly out of kilter to return to works that use the look and the style of these works by Lissitsky, Malevich et al. in a very pedestrian way to discuss this pasts link to the now. There is a great lament here rather than any radical or critical intent. It is as though Russia has slept from those moments in the 1920’s until now.
This is perhaps an obvious statement to make. Of course under 80 years of totalitarian rule, art will suffer a bit. Instead it seems art ceased to exist completely in the way that we understand it in the west, having no development at all. Russia’s art community seems to have held it’s breath since the 1920’s. Exciting perhaps, that something may emerge from the dreams, sad, definitely yes. As several generations of potential have been irreparably lost.
In the text ‘Art Power’ from 2008, Russian born Boris Groys describes the trajectory of post-communist Russia as a journey back through time. If we take the theory that the Black Square, represents a point where history ended as the ‘avant-garde’ situated themselves in the future via the doctrines of the socialist project. This ‘degree zero’, then has been returned to, back through time, back from the future, if you believe the amount of referencing still ongoing. But surely this is a kind of logical two step? It’s a bit like saying, I’ve lost my keys, so I need to follow my footsteps in reverse. It does not really credit Russia’s young generation of artists who don’t reference this point, because actually, they never even heard of it. Malevich who?
It’s more about branding perhaps, where young artists see the last internationally accepted Russian artist as a bit cool. Like wearing Adidas.
Lets focus on a couple of examples of both sides of this point. Pavel Pepperstein is a Russian artist who as well as producing drawing and paintings, also writes novels, is creator of the group Inspection Medical Hermeneutics and is a rapper.
Pepperstein’s works use the political symbolism of the fallen soviet regime (the only modern society to fall) and presents a kind of post-soviet surrealist landscape, in which the forms of hammer, sickle, flags and the works we have already mentioned, intertwine. But these symbols surely now are without any real meaning or significance? The hammer and sickle has been quoted so many times in painting, graphics and graffiti, that the only thing it seems to stand for anymore is a bit of Orwellian double speak. Utopias never existed, certainly not in soviet Russia, so why again this lament for a political project that failed utterly? The system that crushed creative output and stamped all over individual freedom. 30 years ago he would not be allowed to make this work, even at this distance, it feels like a celebration.
Olga Cherysheva’s works explore a more banal contemporary landscape. Working in photography, drawing, painting and film the subjects here are not a grandiose gesture to the past, but rather a self-conscious focus on the now, with a more melancholy sentiment. I was lucky enough to see a show by the artist last year. The most significant piece for me: Intermissions of the Heart, 2009. A video work inspired by Pavel Fedotovs painting of 1890, Encore! More Encore!
The original painting of a dog jumping a stick, is re-presented as a video. The ‘toy’ dog repeatedly and endlessly jumps a stick held be the owner, who pays no attention, instead focused on a half seen television in a very typical Russian apartment. Metaphor abounds here for the contemporary post-soviet condition. Banality, the domestic, media or daytime trash focus, leadership and government and of course, the citizen. This is a far more critical piece than at first it seems.
In my work as a teacher of art in Moscow I have been fortunate enough to meet to meet a lot of people who work in the arts. For the purpose of this ‘balanced’ discussion I have decided to interject some of their opinions in to the mix. I talked to a ‘mover and shaker’ of the Moscow art scene, as well as the director of the British Higher school of Art and Design, who is Russian, but saw the need for a western model of education some 10 years ago.
Christina Steinbrecher lives and works in Moscow. She is a high profile figure currently working as the Art director for Art Moscow, the largest eastern European art fair, held every year in Moscow. Christina also runs Sputnik Foundation, currently working with museums and galleries to promote the idea of digital exhibitions. Works are brought together from major European collections, presented on screens alongside information on the artists involved in the creation of each piece. The point here is accessibility alongside art’s historic and factual context. Christina is half Russian and half German.
IG: Christina thank you for agreeing to talk to me, and to be part of this discussion about art and culture in Russia. So how long have you been in Moscow?
CS: 3 Years already, I came in the spring to work for the gallerist Volker Diehl. He had a gallery in Berlin and wanted to open a space here.
IG: What were your first impressions of Moscow?
CS: I didn’t know the structure initially. But after about a year I got used to the scene, it was easy to meet people, easier than say London. It’s an open scene that welcomes new people. But it’s more difficult to realise projects here. People tend not to accept shows here that are a little ‘cross discipline’. It is changing though. There is on ‘old guard’ here that doesn’t really like or understand contemporary art.
IG: Who are the key players in this ‘old guard’?
CS: Well the Pushkin Museum. The Russian Museum. There are lots of them and they tend to show a lot of older stuff that is regular to the ‘state’ museums in other places. They get high visitor numbers, but nothing is ever explained, they don’t have English guides for example. A lot of information and knowledge about certain works or ideas from the past is somehow lost, because they don’t have an educational agenda. The contemporary spaces like Moma (Moscow Museum of Modern Art) for example, have low numbers. They have a low profile. They are part public and part privately funded by business. If you asked a Muscovite whether or not they know that Moscow has 4 contemporary art Museums, the answer would be no. They have bad PR, and are not reaching to the mass of the people etc.
IG: So thinking about these state sponsored museums that show a particular window on Russian art from say Malevich’s Black square to constructivism and Soviet social realism. Why do visitors prefer to seek out these works, rather than works from ‘now’?
CS: I think black square stands for a mindset now, not even art. The mindset of the regime. It is quoted everywhere. It’s like a brand that everybody knows. Later work made under perestroika for example, work was made at home by artists. Lots of the works from the 1980’s and 90’s contains a lot of text, a lot of Russian specific statements, that would be lost on somebody from the west. People visiting galleries of this kind of work, feel unsatisfied because the visual elements have been lost and the production values are often quite poorly executed. Its not really visual art anymore and I think the audiences realise this. Therefore there is a feeling that Contemporary art or Russian contemporary art is very bland and uninteresting.
IG: Yeah, I can identify with that trend, these paintings sacrifice the visual and become very prescriptive by only including text. This ‘loss of the visual’ in Russian contemporary art is a big problem I think. The narrative can be carried with less direct messaging via images, so closing this down to a textual statement, leaves no room for further dialogue in the mind of the viewer. Lots of these historical and some contemporary works tell you what to think, would you agree with that?
CS: Absolutely. This was as in every country where you have moments in time where things grow from the inside of a closed culture. There were big restraints on colour and canvas in terms of availability under the soviet system. The whole material aspects were not there, nor was permission to paint or express outside of representation of the regime. Over the last 6 years or so the Russian market has tried to open up to the east and the west and the ’Constructivist’ style is how they have done that. It’s almost a new Russian style, this looking back. But in terms of producing art I know artists here who don’t even know how to stretch a canvas, even though they have been to school. The western ways of ‘art making’ even in the simplest forms are still new here.
IG: Some of my criticism in this discussion so far have been about the Russian education system and how it simply does not provide any skills in terms of production or how to use materials skilfully or even promote a discourse on contemporary issues. Why do you think the education system here is dead? Why can’t they seem to break out the habit of referencing the same point in history (ie) 1917?
CS: Well they are not taught to break this because the teachers are old, and don’t really engage with contemporary issues. The teaching methods are lecture based and not practical or product orientated. There is no teaching here that opens up the personal agenda of individual students. Portraits in the style of Da Vinci are accepted here, by the art academies, because here, that is what art is.
IG: Ok, lets move away from painting for a moment and talk about the other art forms like theatre, poetry dance etc and the wider cultural context.
CS: I know a lot of actors here in Moscow who are friends. They mainly study for 4-5 years the craft of acting in traditional way. They look back to classic texts and plays and don’t read new writing or examine new ways of working.
IG: I suppose a buck in that trend would be ‘Cops on Fire’ an underground production last year by Sasha Pas and DZA. Here is a contemporary play presented in Hip Hop style, talking about corruption in the police force. I saw this play last year and the auditorium was full to capacity, with people sitting in the aisles and even standing at the back.
CS: There is theatre Practica and Dock, where underground plays are made and take place. And western companies do come to Moscow and students go in large numbers to see it. But these new methods or subjects tackled are not implemented in the teaching of students. English language isn’t taught so the access to new texts or formats is very limited. Traditional plays are very much in the Broadway style, because that is the theatrical tradition here. There are lots of jokes to amuse the visitors, who want to be entertained. I have visited several of these shows and I think they are obscene. It’s like cinema. The more independent theatres at the moment show a lot of work filled with profanity. Compare that to the inflated language of the Duma (state Parliament) and Putin’s speeches, that is the same language used in the more traditional or popular theatre and you find you have no middle ground.
IG: So what about that then. Russia faces a lot issues at the moment that could be tackled here. What is stopping this tackling of contemporary issues in a critical way? Is it tradition, is it the audience? What stops Russians discussing alcoholism, politics, immigration etc in contemporary art or theatre?
CS: In theatre these issues are discussed. But I could read a newspaper to hear it presented badly. Theatre is the art form talking about these issues in the main but the form as yet can’t deliver a coherent dialogue. There are no artists that I know of who tackle these issues via there work.
IG: Why is that do you think? I am currently trying to encourage these kinds of dialogues with my students. But there seems to be a reluctance there somewhere. Why are the artists here young and old not confronting critical issues via the work? Obviously there are opinions in the west that say art is not the place for politics or for moral messaging. But here it is completely taboo. It’s not an issue at all here it seems.
CS: I don’t vote here. But the general degree of ‘being informed’ here is quite low. People have a ‘them’ and ‘us’ attitude towards the government here. And so maybe that is why there is so little engagement.
IG: Ok so lets go back to art and the systems here. You mentioned the old guard of galleries but lets talk more about the younger galleries who are showing international artists here in Moscow. Who are the ones to watch at the moment?
CS: Definitely Art Berloga, run by Mike Ovcharenko. He is very young and has learnt his craft from his father Vladimir who runs Regina Gallery. He is educated in Moscow but has spent a lot of time abroad. He has an open eye and he can make a very different selection of works to show here that goes against the ‘norms’ of taste. There will be a lot more to come from him I think. Nina Gomiashvili who runs Pobeda gallery. This is a photography gallery founded in 2007 they have a great space at Red October and are showing lots of international works and taking part in the art fair circuit. I think also Paperwork’s Gallery founded in 2005. They are pushing to represent young contemporary artists and represent them properly. Also Ekatherina Iragui at Iragui Gallery. She is defiantly interested in Art. She is tracing the roots of the Avant-garde through the young artists she shows. She is also taking artists too and participating in fairs. She is very consistent and that is very impressive.
IG: So tell me a little bit about you and what you are working on at the moment?
CS: Well at the moment I’m working on my second year at Art Moscow which begins in September, which I think can only grow and grow. Also I’m the director of Sputnik Art foundation. We are working with new media formats. Mainly we produce electronic books for artists who maybe cant afford to get them printed. We produce a Sputnik edition to help artists get the work shown. We are also working on the idea of the ‘virtual museum’. We work with international and local museums to present work digitally due to the constraints of shipping etc. Museums are places of knowledge that often is never seen. Whether that is research into an artist or particular works. Often that info is not presented as part of an exhibition so we work with them to help show that. We have worked with a museum in Germany, Museum Volkwang in Essen. They have both historic and contemporary exhibition programmes. They gave us lots of information about particular works, videos for video work, research and essays on some of the works, interviews etc. We presented all that information alongside the works digitally. A future project is work with a museum in Berlin, where we bring contemporary art from Moscow onto digital screens there, alongside all the information about the work and the artists we can gather. As a knowledge centre to get information and to get an overview of the works it has been received very well. We are also presenting this in Moscow in June as way to show Russian museums haw they might come together, share information and present works where cost can be minimal.
IG: The big museums here are funded by the state in the same way that they are in the UK for example?
CS: Yes, but we are on the verge of a big shake up where all the museums are under threat of losing those funds, to promote more self sufficiency. It might bring something good to the structure as they will have to be more customer focused. This is a country-wide directive from the ministry of culture, and it may be problematic for regional centres, but the big names here should survive that if they improve their marketing strategies.
IG: Earlier you talked about people from the west coming to Moscow to make shows or travel theatre productions etc. How important is tourism in Moscow? Because there is pretty much no tourism here in Moscow. There are difficulties in getting visas, visas have to be registered and in fact it’s a hassle. How important would it be for cultural activity in Moscow to grow, with an influx of foreign visitors?
CS: The structures that are in place will have to be re-valued with an influx of expats. Just imagine, the Tate in London now has a Belgian director, and this is quite normal. It would take a 1000 years for one of the Moscow institutions to take a foreign director. This would be very healthy I think to get a director from a different context, to help improve things. Your students will have a different perspective on the arts because they have you, an artist from London educating them, this will prepare them for whatever is coming.
I have tried to gather some factual information on the activity of the Russian government and its funding programme for the arts. It has proved to be a fruitless task. But for those of you who speak Russian here is a good link: http://mkrf.ru/ministry/
One statement I did find there is this:
The Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation (Russian Ministry of Culture) is a federal executive authority performing functions of public policy in the sphere of culture, art, historical and cultural heritage, film, archives, copyright and related rights, as well as on legal regulations in culture, arts, historical and cultural heritage (with the exception of protection of cultural heritage), cinematography, archiving, copyright and related rights (except for regulatory monitoring and oversight in the area of copyright and related rights) and the function of management of state property and provision of public services in the sphere of culture and cinematography.
Interestingly, the ministry of culture is not responsible for the protection of cultural heritage and unfortunately I was unable to discover which department is. There is information available here on budgets for the departments activity, but only listed as single figure for all activity per region or city. The latest budget document is for financial year 2008.
When I first arrived in Moscow, one of the first things I did, was to visit the local contemporary galleries, initially to add my name to their mailing list. We all do this, we all know about this. You add your name and email to the book on the desk and after a week or so, you get invited to the galleries next event. Not in Moscow. It seems that kind of direct contact with the audience is either not possible, or not desirable. Instead you have to keep checking facebook, translate from Russian to English, and be ready to go to a preview at a moments notice. In all honesty I have stopped this. I now attend a show after it has begun, normally because it seems like if you are not invited, you really are, not invited.
As a practicing artist in Moscow, finding a studio at a reasonable price was difficult, but not impossible. The main difficulty for a foreigner here is that you are not allowed to sign the contract. So, one of your Russian colleagues has to do this for you. Which is irritating, as the security guard always want to talk to the boss of your ‘company’? Yes, you have to have a name for your studio, which is fun. Our studio is called Contemporary Art studio and we currently have a space in a complex called Artplay in central Moscow. Its an old soviet factory site, now transformed into a cultural quarter of galleries, our school, clubs and bars etc. We are very close to Vinzavod which translates as winetown or winevillage. Here you can find all the high profile galleries like XL Gallery, Regina Gallery, who also have a space in London. Aidan gallery is there as well as Art+Art and Gallery White.
As I am working in education here I thought it would be useful to discuss the conception of the British Higher School with it’s director.
Alexander Avramov is director of The British Higher school of art and design. I caught up with Sasha at Solyanka, a trendy bar in Moscow where all the bright young things hang out.
IG: So Sasha, tell me a little bit about the origins of the British Higher School of art and design. When did you first begin to think about forming the school and opening in Moscow.
AA: Well I first began to consider it in 2002 and we opened in 2003. At the time I knew the creative market pretty well and I can’t say that I was happy with what I saw. The idea came from an understanding that creative services and the creative market both needed dramatic changes and it was clear that I understood the main problem was the quality of specialists and artists and designers in the market was lower in comparison with a lot of western countries, developed countries. In order to change this situation we needed to make serious changes in the existing education market. A step by step processes led me to identify the key factors and values that had to be put into the school.
IG: So something was lacking in what was already available? And you saw a potential in foreign models?
AA: The readiness of designers and arts professionals was lacking. They were not able to compete either creatively or financially. But also career opportunities were either not there or were being lost. I mean the whole combination of skills that inform a creative individual. Most designers at the time were self taught. A lot of them were talented and focused, but the numbers were small and secondly they had a traditional Russian education. In most cases the education system wasn’t helping them to achieve more than others who had no formal training. So I said we need to have a more effective system to help students to be more potent on graduation. I looked at all the main European, American and British education models, in which there are few differences admittedly. They are all cut from the same cloth and achieve similar results. I saw a chance to bring the same standard of graduates into the Russian environment. We chose the British connection because of the standard of Art and Design etc from a historic viewpoint. It has a very dynamic and successful history in producing innovators in these fields. I understood that we could be just as effective in terms of teaching and learning on Russian soil, if we followed this model.
IG: So you must feel very passionately about future generations of young Russians having a competitive edge, by providing this environment for them?
AA: Yes, we are changing the landscape here, we are changing peoples lives and setting new standards, it is always useful to show how you can achieve more in a short time as a creative person. This is very inspiring for me. That is what drives me. I call it social entrepreneurship. The students get a better experience here, it is dynamic, it creates jobs, taxes and introduces competition into the markets, both educational and in the arts. Doing what we are doing kills two birds with one stone. We produce something important for the community and ultimately the country as a whole. We are helping people to create their own futures, hopefully better ones at an International level.
IG: Were any difficulties encountered initially? Moscow has these big universities like the Moscow state for example?
AA: No. These places are like living dinosaurs, they don’t see much outside of their own imagination and they are not responding to the changing Russia around them. They took no notice of us at first, maybe they notice us now. We could do whatever we wanted. We built up all our own structures in management, administration and constantly improved them. Right now we are a big player, the people who deal in the arts now admit that we have done so much more that they are doing. Our graduates could go there to teach now to spread the word.
IG: Was there any cynicism initially?
AA: We always had big ambitions even at first. We said we are providing high quality education, we aim for the highest standards and offer international recognition and opportunities. But we were small at the time and people said this noise probably had no proof. But as soon as we started to get feed back from industry, that soon changed. Criticism became quieter.
IG: And every year the school grows in terms of numbers and in the courses offered. The bigger cultural question here is about you potentially offering courses in theatre, acting or writing etc. is that still a gap that in your mind needs to be filled?
AA: Probably, but there has to be some analysis before the launch of a course. There has to be a demand and our organisation has to be sure that there are problems in other university structures already offering these programmes before we would think about that. There are some very good courses available at Russian universities, that do produce excellent resulting graduates. But if we felt that we could do it better maybe we would move in. We are interested in the demand for students after leaving our school, and so initially we are training people to fill the biggest gaps. We want students to be able to get the money they have invested with us back through future employment.
IG: So finally, what is your perception of the changes in cultural attitudes towards art and design over the last 10 years in Moscow, and what do you see the next 10 years bringing?
AA: Well a good sign is that cultural activity in general is booming. In the last decade so many new places have been created from scratch, such as Garage centre for Contemporary Culture, Art Strelka centre for Architecture and even the complex surrounding Strelka, the Red October factory which is now filled with creative enterprises and business. People go there, make festivals for art, audio, fashion etc. Young people go there, its still a bit chaotic in a way.
IG: Yes it seems to be almost exclusively young people who are doing all this stuff, do you agree with that?
AA: It starts from exclusivity, but if it grows broader and broader more circles of society become involved. Places like Vinzavod and Artplay attract more and more people from different layers of society, from business people to some tourists, lots of students etc. The next decade will give people a better understanding of good art, good design and hopefully help to begin to filter out the bad. We need more of everything to help this selection process. To see the importance of all this activity on a wider level.
There you have it. A very small window on contemporary Russian culture and artistic activity.
So, how to sum all this dialogue up easily?
It seems that things here are changing. The levers of the capitalist system have been pulled and the current financial climate here is still riding an oil-based boom. There is so much potential here it almost defies logic, when you consider how much financial strife the west currently faces. But capitalism does not come in a package with a new education system or ways of teaching. That has to be worked on from the ground up. The splitting along generational lines is quite clear. Half of the current population lived in the Soviet system for half of their life, the younger generations did not, but are still surrounded by it’s death rattle.
What is very promising from my perspective is the idea that flooding the art ‘market’ with both good and bad works will help find a natural selection. At the moment, students from my Foundation course can potentially get a show at any of the galleries mentioned, and indeed they do. This does not happen in the west and it will not happen here forever. But nevertheless, an open playing field, where all seems roughly equivalent is an exciting prospect. Maybe as Boris Groys says in ‘Art Power’, because I am from the west, I don’t like bland boring works of art, because I want colour and heterogeneity. But perhaps that is no bad thing for Russia?