Cosmoscow, 2015. Courtesy the fair.
A city of almost 12 million people, Moscow has been the cultural center of Russia and Eastern Europe for decades. While the city is better known for Russian ballet, theater, and classical music, its appetite for contemporary art has grown increasingly over the past few years, with the opening of the new Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, the recent retrospective of Alexander Calder at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, and now the third edition of Cosmoscow, Russia’s international contemporary art fair. Following its successful re-launch in 2014, the fair found a new home: the great halls of Moscow’s 14th-century Gostiny Dvor (“Guest Court” or “Merchant Yard”), designed by Italian architect Jacomo Kvarnegi and known for its elegant architectural style and magnificent skylight ceiling. Its spacious quarters and natural lighting serve the fair’s participants nicely.
This year the fair brings 34 galleries from the U.S., the UK, and mainland Europe alongside galleries from Russia, and features work by 130 international and local artists, with a range of prices to suit any level of collector. From these offerings, we’ve highlighted our favorite 10 booths at this year’s fair.
Installation view of Rosenfeld Porcini’s booth at Cosmoscow, 2015. Photo by Yulia Topchiy.
European galleries were welcomed with excitement and warmth at Cosmoscow, despite political tensions and sanctions from the West. A newcomer this year, London’s Rosenfeld Porcini presented an excellently curated booth, featuring works by Chinese artist Chao Lu and Greek artist Antonis Donef (prices range from €2,750 to €26,200). While Lu draws on traditional Chinese ink drawings for his oil paintings of cakes, Donef’s more spontaneous approach results in fascinating and complex patchwork collages of pages from old books and newspapers.
Installation view of pop/off/art’s booth at Cosmoscow, 2015. Photo by Yulia Topchiy.
pop/off/art returned to Cosmoscow with a site-specific presentation by St. Petersburg-based artist Vitaly Pushnitsky. Habitat (2015) resembles an artist’s studio, with paintings hung salon style and a grand curtain at the entrance. Pushnitsky, whose work appears in this year’s Venice Biennale at the National Pavilion of Mauritius, constantly reinvents himself through a variety of mediums, including painting, sculpture, installation, and video. His paintings, ranging from €2,100 to €8,000, proved popular among the fair’s collectors, with a majority of them sold on opening night.
Installation view of Temnikova & Kasela’s booth at Cosmoscow, 2015. Photo by Yulia Topchiy.
Another gallery to return this year was Temnikova & Kasela, one of the few of its kind in Estonia, bringing five European artists, Estonians among them. Through melancholic photographs, Krista Mölder questions the relationship between people and spaces. Finnish artist Mikko Hintz employs iconography in his small-scale works, finishing them off with sandpaper. Don’t mistake the naivety and quiet elegance of his graphic geometric compositions—which question the boredom, disappointment, and weakness of painting—for timidness. Equally complex are Kris Lemsalu’s fragile, luxurious, and even humorous ceramic animal masks. Latvian artist Inga Meldere, meanwhile, presents gently coated tempera canvases, which depict naive narratives inspired by personal memories and family events. The booth also features Kaido Ole, one of the most established artists from the Baltic States, whose recent foray into painting plays with social satire and the artist’s own self portraits.
Installation view of Alexander Povzner’s work at XL Gallery’s booth at Cosmoscow, 2015. Photo by Yulia Topchiy.
XL Gallery, one of the most prominent in Moscow, curated not only their own booth but also Cosmoscow Projects, which highlighted work by young artists from Russia with large-scale installations from Recycle Group, Zip Group, Ivan Gorshkov, and Ilya Dolgov. Enlisting the established Russian artist Alexander Povzner for their booth, the gallery presented the artist’s “Progress Report” series (2015), comprised of modular sculptural pieces made from Gypsum, juxtaposed with geometric paintings of shapes and objects. Julia Zastava, a thirtysomething emerging artist from Russia, represents a new generation that has left the country to study and live in Europe. Zastava uses acrylic, pen, and marker on carton to depict psychedelic scenes and images of disturbed youths.
XL Gallery & Peresvetov Gallery
Installation view of XL Gallery & Peresvetov Gallery’s “Paper alone” exhibition at Cosmoscow, 2015. Photo by Yulia Topchiy.
XL Gallery also collaborated with Peresvetov Gallery to curate “Paper alone,” an exhibition focusing on contemporary Russian artists who are reviving the lost tradition of graphic art from Soviet times—a precursor to upcoming exhibitions at Peresvetov Gallery. The works presented at the joint booth were reasonable in price (€150 to €3,500) and perfect for a young collector. The artists included Viktor Pivovarov, one of the founders of Moscow Conceptualism, Vladimir Dubossarsky, the prominent contemporary pop art figure, and Kirill Kto, a renowned street artist. The booth also presented a wall of works on paper by Svetlana Sivaeva, known for her unconventional approach to Abstract Expressionism, which were purchased at the fair by Credit Suisse for their private collection.
Installation view of Glaz and Gallery 21’s booth at Cosmoscow, 2015. Courtesy the fair.
These two galleries share a space in Winzavod Centre for Contemporary Art, and they took a collaborative approach at the fair. Glaz Gallery, known for its great roster of contemporary photographers, brought excellent works by Ivan Mikhailov, who documented the space-themed playgrounds in his native Chuvashia, Russia (which is also the home of the third Russian cosmonaut Andriyan Nikolayev). Tim Parchikov’s photographs from the “Burning News” series (2012) carry political messages, commenting on the Russian media’s influence on the daily life of its people. Gallery 21 completed the booth with a photographic installation by Russian artist Natasha Dahnberg and sculptures of faceless matryoshkas by Ukrainian-born Sergey Katran from the series “Type of Matrix” (2010), whose works appear decorative at first but are psychologically charged, commenting on issues of identity, motherhood, cloning, and death.
Installation view of ArtSvit’s booth at Cosmoscow, 2015. Courtesy the fair.
Ukrainian gallery ArtSvit participated for the second time at the fair despite political tensions between Russia and Ukraine. This year the gallery presented Nikita Shalenny’s site-specific installation Siberia (2015). Made from Chinese hand towels and installed in the shape of Siberia, it addresses the complex history of the region, the territory’s massive scale, and the potential for a future where it is primarily comprised of Chinese immigrants. Stepan Ryabchenko, a young artist and architect from Odessa, created a visual interpretation of the most common computer viruses in the world through impressive 3D prints, sculptures, and lightboxes.
Installation view of Telli’s booth at Cosmoscow, 2015. Photo by Yulia Topchiy.
Based in Almaty, Kazakhstan, and just a few months old, Telli was a first-time participant at Cosmoscow but Kazakh artist Janarbek Amankulov is already generating buzz. The gallery owner and Amankulov both come from a scientific background and focus on the subjects of global ecology, the environment, and human spirituality. Working together with the Central Asian Ecological Institute, Janarbek creates beautiful landscape images of Kazakh glaciers, mountains, and water, invoking the environment at a global scale. Titled “Koshpe Muz,” this series of photographs is part of the artist’s expansive, ongoing installation project.
Installation view of H.L.A.M’s booth at Cosmoscow, 2015. Courtesy the fair.
The presence of regional Russian artists was noticeable throughout the fair. Voronezh-based gallery H.L.A.M was established in 2008 with a focus on regional artists. Arseny Zhilyaev, a participant at this year’s Venice Biennale, presented several unique tapestries from his project, “Cradle of Humankind” (2015), which was originally planned for an exhibition at the Russian Space Federation, but was later cancelled due to his “inappropriate” use of symbols and text. His site-specific installation expresses an interest in the future of art, science, and politics, blurring the lines between fiction and nonfiction. Ilya Dolgov brings a nice contrast to the booth with his beautiful “Herbarium” series (2015), in which he takes the approach of a self-trained naturalist, meticulously presenting and documenting each flower.
Installation view of 11.12 Gallery’s booth at Cosmoscow, 2015. Courtesy the fair.
Moscow-based 11.12 Gallery has an international fair presence, but for Cosmoscow the gallery had a regional focus, featuring Rinat Voligamsi and Vasily Slonov. Voligamsi, a trained architect, is based in Ufa, where he finds Soviet-era photographs and images from various sources, including the internet, and uses Photoshop to create up to 300 collages before the painting takes place. The finished result recalls the war-time sketchbooks of the Soviet period. Slonov, an artist from Krasnoyarsk, is one of the few presenting sculptural and three-dimensional wall pieces at the fair. His metal head gears, “Cycling Mushroom” series, and oil mosquito sculptures comment on big industry and politics while stimulating the viewer with the objects’ surreal imagery and impossible functionality.
Cosmoscow Special Exhibitions
Installation view of “Collector’s Eye” at Cosmoscow, 2015. Courtesy the fair.
While it’s not technically a booth, collector and curator Olga Vaschilina’s “Collector’s Eye” presentation is a standout. Entitled “if I could...From an imaginary past to a certain future,” the exhibition explores what the living room of a Russian collector in the 1960s and ’70s might have looked like in a world where money and censorship were not issues. Featuring work from private collections across Moscow and mixing stylish 1960s Russian furniture and decorative objects with contemporary and modern masters such as Georg Baselitz, Sherrie Levine, Brent Wadden, Yayoi Kusama, and Cindy Sherman, the exhibition serves as a guide for any young Russian collector.