Matthew Brown writes a detailed summary on Artnet of everything that happened during ArtMoscow and the Moscow Biennale, two nearly simultaneous events in Moscow last week. The Biennale gets good reviews while the art fair was the stage for drama:
Moscow’s chief contemporary art fair has been beset by problems this year. First the organizers, ExpoPark, in the teeth of the economic crisis, doubled the participation fees. This caused a mass boycott by galleries and ExpoPark backed down. But by then the timetable was spoiled and the decision was taken to open the fair during the biennale. It was an unwise choice, because the fair is now a minor attraction. But that is not all.
Several non-Russian galleries using the services of a Swiss transport firm, Forsblum‘s among them, found their work held up at customs for the duration of the fair. Forsblum hung his stand with color copies of the paintings by Ross Bleckner, Donald Sultan, Terry Winters and others that he had been hoping to show. Other galleries left empty walls with an explanatory sign. Of course, Russia being what it is, the reasons for this fuck-up are murky. According to one affected gallerist, Albert Benamou, from Paris, the problem was that the freight documents were wrongly filled in: a weight of two tons was given instead of four, “paintings” were classified as “graphics” and so on.
According to Dora Stiefelmeier of RAM (radioartemobile) Gallery, from Rome, the real reason was sabotage. Stiefelmeier told me that she had been informed, on very high authority, that her mistake was to use a non-Russian carrier. […]
ArtMoscow re-opened a major fissure in the Moscow art world, between the rumored-to-be very rich Triumph Gallery and its stable of artists, on the one hand, and the Moscow conceptualists on the other. The latter are led into battle by the critic Ekaterina Degot, but presided over by the Long Island eminence grise, Ilya Kabakov, Russia’s most expensive contemporary artist. Degot’s review of ArtMoscow on Open Space, a highly influential Russian-language arts website, published during the fair, described the Triumph Gallery’s several stands as a “growing tumor” that it was best to avoid. It’s hard to conceive of a greater rudeness, and it was not fun to be sitting next to Triumph’s co-owner Emelyan Zakharov just after he received this news.
The biennial tried to do something different in Moscow, according to The Art Newspaper:
“In Moscow in the last ten or 15 years there have been a number of exhibitions showing European or North American art, but very little coming from South America, Africa or Asia, with probably a few exceptions for the Chinese because they’re fashionable,” Martin said. “Most of my colleagues show artists that are in the network of galleries and museums and have more or less accepted the mould of modernist and postmodernist work. My understanding of art is much wider—I want to also include artists working for their communities, for example Aboriginal Australians who are not usually included in the network of high art.” Martin was the curator of the renowned “Magiciens de la Terre” exhibition at the Centre Pompidou, Paris, in 1989, which brought artists from marginalised areas of the world to the fore. He also said that he wants to include older artists in “Against Exclusion” rather than just focusing on emerging artists, as the two previous biennales did, and that he is against any type of aesthetic exclusion.
Was it successful? Here’s Brown’s take:
A few well-informed grouches are saying that Jean-Hubert Martin’s show, unambiguously entitled “Against Exclusion,” is merely a rehash of what its curator has done elsewhere. That may be so. But for a Moscow audience it is apt and largely successful. It brings to Russia hitherto-unseen artists from Asia, Africa and other non-western centers, and mixes them up with some well-known Russian and western names. It’s elegantly installed on walls of white and dark gray, selectively lit, and contains much intriguing and seductive work. There’s no obvious esthetic emphasis, but Martin seems to be interested in process and materials, in contrasts of ancient and hyper-modern technology, and in optical illusions.
Moscow Express (Artnet)
Moscow Biennial (The Art Newspaper)