AR Brings British Curators to the Moscow Biennale



For the opening of the Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art 2007 ACADEMIA ROSSICA initiated and organised the visit of five leading British curators from some of the UK’s foremost public arts institutions. They included:

Andrew Nairne, Director of Modern Art Oxford
Sarah Martin, Curator at the Camden Arts Centre, London
Stephen Snoddy, Director of the New Art Gallery, Walsall
Martin Clark, Curator of Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol
And Ben Lewis, the indispensable voice of contemporary criticism and documentary film-maker.

This trip was not only a continuation of the London–Moscow contemporary art dialogue, established during the Moscow Breakthrough project in November 2005, but a logical step in the construction of long term ties between British arts professionals and Russia’s artists and cultural institutions, which AR has been committed to instigating and supporting for the last two years.

During their five day visit the curators took part in an intensive program. A whirlwind tour of Moscow’s main museums for historical context and a deeper understanding of the national cultural backdrop, including the Kremlin, the New Tretyakov Gallery and the Museum of Private Collections, visits to some of the city’s most influential private and public galleries and arts foundations, such as the National Centre for Contemporary Art, Stella Art and Ekaterina Foundation, as well as the main Biennale exhibitions in Federation Tower and key contemporary art projects organised at Win-Zavod.

The 2nd Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art, which had Hans Urlich Obrist, Rosa Martinez and Nicolas Bourriaud among its curators, and Joseph Backstein at the helm, reflected a jolt in the direction of internationalism and an intensification of cultural regeneration for Russia’s capital. Academia Rossica’s invited curators were a reflection on this dynamism through their varied experience in working with Russia and the diversity of institutions and galleries they represent. This made their reactions to the experience of the Biennale all the more interesting a reading of the contemporary arts scene in Russia. It was, therefore, the British curators’ roundtable discussion, organised by AR as part of the program, which turned out to be one of the highlights of the Biennale opening.

The roundtable, christened Conversations on the Footnotes, examined ideas of diversity, celebrity, the new and the politicised, as well as being a manifestation of the curators’ freshly formed views of the standing of Russian Contemporary art, both in Moscow, and in an international and economic context. The discussion exploded with Joseph Backstein’s opening comments and was picked up and expanded by eminent members of the audience, as well as attracting the involvement of further British curators, invited to Moscow by Visiting Arts. The roundtable became an extrospective and truly international event.

Above all, AR is happy to have played a role in setting up what it hopes will be long standing professional interests and links between the above mentioned UK institutions and important Russian artists and art centres, encouraging actual contact between two contemporary art cultures.

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