Saturday, 26 September 2009

More about culture

Got invited to the opening of the 3rd Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art at Garage last week. Thought I would meet all the glitterati there, since Garage or Garazh or гараж ( the local joke is that the logo looks like Tampax) is run by Darya Zhukova, best known in Europe as Roman Abhramovich's girlfriend. In fact I think the big names had all been to a party the night before, and it was more an event for the cultural hoi-polloi. The space can fit 1,500 people and a lot of art - it was once, after all, a Constructivist bus garage - but 2,500 people turned up, so we had a interesting crowd experience with security (which came, it must be said, after a very typical Moscow experience of spending nearly 2 hours in a traffic jam, not going very far) and then drank plenty of free vodka to make up for the wait.

There remans a kind of struggling with the art scene here; is it just that contemporary art is a 'must have' for Russia to be part of the global cultural landscape, or that rich Russians want access to modern art along with their other items of conspicuous consumption? The acting head of the Federation Agency for Culture and Cinematography famously said when he opened the first biennale that contemporary art was like "an unloveable person one needs to love". The sheer size of the show and the uneveness of curation - as well as all the gossip about behind the scenes back-biting - means that the range of exhibitions across Moscow are quite mixed; and that the best work at Garage was often in a confusing relationship to lesser pieces. This year's theme - Against Exclusion - does seem to led to a 'lets have one of those, and those and those' mentality, spanning from Aboriginal art to Yinka Shonibare to Spence Tunick-in-Moscow (see above), in a pretty haphazard fashion.

And there is that other thing, about what constitutes 'normal' behaviour in different contexts; I am just not used to seeing people posing for their photographs in a gallery, in front of the work.

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