The museum’s soaring space is an ideal venue for carrying out the center’s mission of educating the Russian public about the unique story of Russian and Soviet Jews, and Kapoor is a fitting subject for its ambitious contemporary program. This past spring, Kapoor, who was born to an Indian father and a Jewish mother, had a personal brush with anti-Semitism when his giant sculpture Dirty Corners
(2015) was scrawled with graffiti while installed in the gardens of Versailles
. Rather than removing the racial slurs, Kapoor decided to leave the writings intact as a reminder that xenophobia still pervades modern society. After a French politician brought Kapoor to court in order to rid the sculpture of the graffiti, Kapoor implemented a plan to cover the tags with gold leaf as a way to heal the works’ surface without erasing the memory of the events. “Tolerance requires a lot of patience. We are not predisposed to it. It takes a real effort,” says Kapoor. “It is a huge battle that we have to teach ourselves.”
The Jewish Museum is taking strides to promote that tolerance through exhibitions as well as through eye-catching interactive installations. A relative newcomer to Moscow’s cultural landscape, the institution takes its cues from international counterparts. “When I joined the museum after the opening, I realized we were already kind of plagiarizing the Jewish Museum in New York, whose art program we are very envious of,” says Nasimova, whose background is in finance and contemporary art. “Russia is now in a similar state as New York in the 1970s, so we have an opportunity to program however we like. While we don’t have a big space to contribute towards contemporary art, we felt it was an important addition to our program because it gives our visitors the chance to experience something new.” So far, Nasimova’s strategy is working—supplemental exhibitions by artists like Kapoor have increased the visibility of the museum while also offering guests a chance to connect the past with the present.