And the winner is …
In a major exhibition, the
Kandinsky Prize introduces the young Russian scene to Berlin
Russian capital has grown into a booming center for art. More and more
galleries are showing contemporary positions, while events like the Moscow
Biennial draw international attention to the thriving Russian scene.
Deutsche Bank has been supporting art in Russia for over twenty years-with
presentations from its collection, sponsorship of exhibitions, and now
with the Kandinsky Prize for young Russian art. While the winners and
nominees of 2007 are currently being shown in a major exhibition in
Berlin, a jury of international art experts is meeting to select the
artists who will compete in 2008. Olga Tararukhina on the
background and perspectives of the highest endowed Russian art prize.
ceremony for the Kandinsky Prize
the Winzavod Center of Contemporary Art in Moscow
Russia, the Kandinsky Prize
is compared to the Turner
Prize. Yet it does have its own inimitable flavor. When they talk
about how they'd like their country to develop, Russians, situated between
Europe and Asia, have been saying since the early 19th century that Russia
needs to go its own way. This also goes for its native art. In the throes
of the Russian Revolution, the long-held humanist tradition of private
collections largely came to a halt in the first quarter of the 20th
century. This development was only to take a new and radical turn with the
contemporary upheaval in Russian society. Since the dawn of the new
millennium, a passion for art and collection is "in" again: suddenly, the
adjectives "international" and "world-known" have catapulted a few select
contemporary artists into the high-end of the domestic art market. Yet
descriptions like "one of the few important artists on the Russian art
scene" also suggest that these artists have previously played a minor role
at best on the international market.
From the series
"Demons of my Dreams", 2007,
Aidan Gallery, Moscow
According to Moscow
gallery dealers, there are currently 200-300 collectors of contemporary
art in Russia. Because the state does not support museums in purchasing
works from galleries, they are entirely dependent on the collectors. There
are only 50 contemporary art galleries in Moscow (10 of them having
appeared within the six months between October 2007 and May 2008). There
is almost no market outside Moscow and St. Petersburg, and most artists
outside these two cities cannot live from their art. This situation is
also reflected in the large number of Russian contemporary art collections
that seem somehow cloned in that they all feature the same established
artists. This homogenous picture corresponds to the cultural climate.
While many speak about corruption, the power of lobbyists, and a new
hedonism, it can also happen that art and its curators can be prosecuted
for extremism because they allegedly encroach upon patriotic sentiment.
It's no wonder that the founders of the Kandinsky Prize seem anxious to
avoid any possibility for reproach.
Kulik. Tennis Player, 2002, Exhibition view, "Chronicle. 1987-2007",
House of Artists, Moscow,
of the XL Gallery, Moscow
However, the first awarding of the Kandinsky Prize in 2007
was also a declaration of art's freedom. Just as the ceremony was about to
begin in Moscow's Winzavod Center of
Contemporary Art, two uniformed police officers stormed the stage.
They embraced and kissed each other passionately, which the public
responded to with loud approval. It was a demonstration of solidarity with
the artist duo Blue
Noses on the part of the event's organizers and guests, important
figures from the fields of culture and finance. Through the intervention
of the Russian Cultural Minister Alexander
Sokolov, Blue Noses' photograph Era of Mercy (2005) was not
allowed to be shown in a Paris exhibition, although the provocative
image-two police officers kissing in a Siberian birch grove-had previously
been shown without incident in the State
Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.
But the prize came at just the
right time, and not only as a declaration of free artistic expression. It
was long overdue within the Russian art community. Previously, the visual
arts had been unfairly ignored: theatre, cinema, and music all had their
national prizes with international resonance. Except for the state
"Innovation" Prize, none of the existing Russian art prizes enjoyed any
wider resonance in the media. And none of them were able to attract any
international attention for Russian art.
Osmolovsky. From the series "Goods", 2007,
Stella Art Foundation, Moscow
becomes a problem especially for the non-Russian jury members is that they
are often simply not familiar with the historical and social contexts of a
given work. The local art scene, except for the key figures who have had
shows abroad like Ilya
Kabakov and Oleg
Kulik, is not integrated into the international context. And in spite
of major exhibitions like Moscow-Berlin
(2003-2004) and Russia!
(New York, Bilbao 2006), it's largely unknown in the West. Only the small
solo or group shows in European and American commercial galleries or the
Moscow XL Gallery's
participation in leading art fairs form an exception. The regional
criteria and values do not match the international.
difficulty here, according to Andrei Erofeev, jury member and former
curator of the art collection at the State Tretyakov Gallery, is that
"there are artists appreciated here in Russia, whereas in the West others
are appreciated whom we do not necessarily know here." On the other hand,
Friedhelm Hütte, jury member for the Kandinsky Prize and Director of
Deutsche Bank Art, detects a shift occurring among young Russian artists:
"They aren't living on an island; the artists know what's going on
internationally. However, the best work for me would have a Russian touch,
a Russian soul-a specific spirit, something related to the art history and
society of the country." To his mind, the new prize offers Russian artists
an excellent opportunity to introduce their work to important
international curators, gallery dealers, and experts and to present it in
exhibitions such as the current one in Berlin in order to find their way
into the art establishment.
Saigon, Hally From Behind the Pierce, 2006.
the project "Stereotypes. Bang Bang"