Recently, the situation has changed again, in the sense that the new conservative term of the third Putin presidency canceled the previous alliance between state policy and contemporary art. Contemporary art is not very positively received now by state bureaucracy, and state subsidies into contemporary art institutions have been reduced.
How can a private institution like Garage play a different role than state-run institutions in Moscow’s art landscape?
In this climate, an institution like Garage—an institution which is subsidized by private sources—is extremely, extremely important. As a counterpoint, the Moscow Museum of Modern Art, and the whole chain of the National Centre for Contemporary Arts (with venues in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Kaliningrad, Nizhnii Novgorod, and more) is one of the leading institutions in the country—but it’s a federal institution with a very small budget. I’m working with them now on a very ambitious project, and the budget is coming almost entirely from external, private, or international foundations because the state has reduced subsidies to an essential minimum. It’s not an easy time, but at the same time, it’s important to stay positive, because art is no longer corrupted by power. Contemporary art has returned to itself.
What was your first or most memorable experience at Garage?
For me, it was Garage’s first exhibition: the incredible
show. It was a powerful and genius gesture. The choice of Kabakov was, I would say, a sniper shoot because Garage performed the great return of an artist who left Russia in the late ’80s. In fact, I was with Kabakov [
] on his last night in Moscow—he left expecting to come back in three months but practically never did. So, Garage performed this brilliant, triumphant return of a great Russian artist.
How do you hope to see Moscow’s art community grow and change in the next 10 years? What role do you see Garage playing in this growth?
Garage’s vantage point and leadership now stands out amongst other institutions for their precise program, with a very precise idea behind it. Of course, it is not the only institution in Moscow; there are many. But what is crucially important is their mission to be international but also to be in dialogue with the local situation. This attempt to be “glocal”—to think globally but act locally—is unique to Garage in Moscow, or at least they are the only institution which has succeeded in realizing it. Some institutions in Moscow are too local and some are exaggeratedly international or provincially international. Garage finds an intelligent, reasonable, and productive position in between different counterpoints.