Time of Squats in St. Petersburg Has Ended – The Era of Institutions Begins

«ArtChronika» Meets with Those Who Create New Lofts, Galleries, and Museums.

Marina Gisich Gallery
Owner: Marina Gisich
Address: Embankment of the Fontanka River, 121
Considered one of the oldest galleries in operation since 2000, Gisich primarily focuses on artists from St. Petersburg, promoting necro-realists, Kustov, Yufit. She also exhibits works from the “middle generation” of Petersburg authors – Petr Bely and Vitaly Pushnitsky, whose exhibition is soon to open in the Moscow Museum of Modern Art. Marina is interested in integrating into the Western market. “There is an untapped field here – numerous wonderful guys who have been underpromoted for a decade. There are few galleries, the market is virgin. My task is to position the artists correctly abroad. On their territory, we are barely noticeable; we are not ready to compete with the West. A long educational process is needed.” The gallery works in conjunction with a design studio. Diversification of the business is meant to support the gallery during art market crises. Gisich’s attempt to combine the commercial and exhibition line is the project “Art in the Interior.” However, in St. Petersburg, Marina believes, there are very few people ready to buy art. According to her, understanding needs to be cultivated: “St. Petersburg suffers from a lack of those young, energetic people that are in Moscow. We are practically alone trying to move a giant layer, and our results are minimal because the machine is huge, the city with centuries-old classical traditions is extremely conservative. My task is to shake up this state of affairs as much as possible. I hope to make the city modern through contemporary art.”

New Museum
Owner: Aslan Chekhoev
Address: 6th Line of Vasilievsky Island, 29
Opposite the entrance to the “Vasileostrovskaya” metro station is a glass door with an unobtrusive logo. Behind it is the city’s first private museum, where Aslan Chekhoev’s personal collection is exhibited. Over twenty years, he managed to collect a representative collection of nonconformists and the latest art, as Alexander Borovsky believes, which can be seen in the museum opened two years ago. For example, it includes the Arefyev Circle, the progenitors of St. Petersburg’s underground, whose large exhibition the New Museum just showed. The building on the 6th Line belongs to Chekhoev; the exhibition space occupies two floors. The owner laments that there is not enough space: “The younger generation is drawn to more radical art, but my platform is not very suitable for this. I would love to, but it’s a different format. Maybe someone will say that I am inclined to academism, but this is only explained by the parameters of our space. There are plans to expand, but honestly, I can’t handle it alone without partners.” The museum is in a difficult economic situation, lacking funds. Negotiations are underway; there are no helpers yet, but the collector does not lose heart: “I believe that if you start working, you should initially rely on your own strength. Maybe my words will sound pompous now, but the New Museum has clear principles: outside of politics, nationalities, geographical ties. I set myself the task – to try to collect all the best that is in the country.”

“Unconquered” Studio
Artists: Ilya Gaponov, Ivan Plyusch, and Irina Drozd
Address: Nepokorennykh Prospekt, 17/4
The “Unconquered” Studio is located on the eponymous avenue, on the technical floor of a former missile factory. In 2007, curator Anastasia Shavlokhova negotiated with the owner, and artists, graduates of “Mukha,” moved into the studio. Back then, it was called a squat. The owner is interested not in rent but in the artistic process (the artists only pay utility bills). 800 square meters were divided into a dozen personal workshops, a silkscreen room, and an exhibition area. There is a regime on the object – after midnight, it is forbidden to be in the workshops. Artists go to the factory as to work and take the squat, which they manage themselves, very seriously. The repair of the floor was done by the first “unconquered.” The studio arranges lectures and master classes, invites both their and other projects, such as the exhibition of the promising Krasnodar group ZIP.
Who among acquaintances to provide a workshop is decided by the entire collective. The composition of the artists changes; Veronika Rudyeva-Ryazantseva, Andrey Gorbunov, Konstantin Novikov, Ivan Khimin passed through the studio. Several years ago, Shavlokhova stepped back from management, but the core of the studio remains. Ilya Gaponov and Kirill Koteshov are constantly working in the “Unconquered.” Ivan Plyusch and Irina Drozd are perhaps best known in Moscow, and in St. Petersburg itself, they are considered almost Moscow artists.

Parasite Gallery
Organizer: artist Vladimir Kozin
Address: in the corridor of the “Borey” gallery, Liteyny Prospekt, 58
“Cultured people were not amused. It’s like the unrestrained aesthetic of the nineties in an atmosphere of a crypt with the half-decayed corpse of the Russian Warhol in an underground vomit-stained corner” – this is how the ‘parasites’ describe their exhibitions. There’s some truth in this. The name (conceived by Vladimir Kozin, then a member of the “New Stupid” collective) reflects the group’s credo: they parasitize on other cultural institutions. The artists regularly hold exhibitions in a grocery store and since 2004 have occupied the corridor of the “Borey” gallery. Some actions of the group ended up at the police station. A “normal” platform is not necessary for the ‘parasites.’ This is not a creative association in the usual sense, but rather a dynamic companionship of very different artists by interest. The composition of the group changes, once including the “New Stupid,” and from it emerged “Prosthesis” and “Soap.” Each ‘parasite’ builds their own career, and young guys like Shishkin-Hokusai or Ivan Tuzov are already doing solo exhibitions. The constant participants of the project remain the founders – Yuri Nikiforov (Colonel) and Vladimir Kozin. The ‘Parasite,’ which the youth uses as a launching pad, relies on Kozin’s hooliganism and the Colonel’s fanaticism. It’s a marginal school where they teach to relate to art easily and with humor, in defiance of Moscow institutions.

“Hermitage 20/21” Project
Curator: Dmitry Ozerkov, Head of Contemporary Art Sector
Address: Palace Square, 6–10
Throughout the 2000s, the Hermitage hosted exhibitions of contemporary artists (Louise Bourgeois – already in 2001), and the launch of the “Hermitage 20/21” program in 2007 gave a long-term strategy to these disparate projects.
“Hermitage 20/21” prepares exhibitions once or twice a year, rarely but significantly. The curator focuses on important names and the Hermitage’s two-hundred-year strategy of collecting. The exhibition aims to illuminate different aspects of contemporary art, but as Ozerkov notes, “we choose those we want to show as continuers of the art of the 19th-20th centuries. We are still the main museum in Russia by status and collection value. Therefore, we cannot afford to make random gestures and show nonsense. We exhibit art on the edge, what we are sure will enter history and at the same time is maximally new. In part, we form this edge and, undoubtedly, strive to form the image of new art in Russia.” Indeed, the risky projects of “Hermitage 20/21” are hard to call, especially concerning personal exhibitions of megastars: Antony Gormley, Annie Leibovitz, Henry Moore, Ilya Kabakov, Anish Kapoor – proven titans with a good reputation. Closer inspection may only be surprised by the gentle relations between the “Hermitage 20/21” program and British private museum owner Charles Saatchi: the Hermitage hosted two exhibitions of his artists, USA Today and “New Language: British Art Today.”

Rizzordi Art Foundation (RAF)
President: Anna Shumilova
Address: Kurlandskaya Street, 49
RAF is the youngest exhibition project in St. Petersburg. The Rizzordi Foundation (named combining the surnames of the founder Vitaly Rizzi and his sister Marianna Ordzhonikidze) has been operating since 2009. Before opening its loft, it toured Gleb Kosorukov’s “Stakhanovites” around the world and showcased young artists at the Tourist Information Center on Sadovaya Street. The new 4,000 square meter venue is located on the territory of the Stepan Razin brewery, in an area not yet conquered by mass creative initiatives. The grand plans match the scale of the new venue. In the summer of 2011, it hosted an exhibition of the Association of Galleries of Contemporary Art, a rehearsal for the future regular fair. President Anna Shumilova sees the foundation’s mission in keeping the window to Europe open: “I feel that Russian art is in a marginal position. I want to educate our young artists. We were looking for a large space for educational purposes, to bring foreign artists to St. Petersburg and show art as it is presented in the West.” Soon, the loft at the brewery (which, incidentally, still functions for its intended purpose) will feature a cinema, a bookstore, and a library. All this is mainly funded by Vitaly Rizzi, director of the “Gift of Life” charity foundation supporting children with heart defects. Its prototype, the “Russian Gift of Life” foundation, is based in the USA.

Anna Nova Gallery
Owner: Anna Barinova
Address: Zhukovskogo Street, 28
On the website annanova.ru, a simple music clip plays. Singer Anna Nova – the director of the eponymous gallery – displays the breadth of her nature in the selection of artists: the list starts with underground veteran Bob Koshelokhov and ends with young talents, focused on the new projects competition. Among Anna’s discoveries are Valeria Nibiru, who recently moved to Moscow with her girlish-toy-like surrealism, and Nadezhda Anfalova, whose “Rocket,” mysteriously transported from a children’s playground at night, was simultaneously exhibited at the Moscow Biennale and the Kandinsky Prize nominees’ exhibition. Recently, Anna Nova presented the works of St. Petersburg-based artist Kulikov, returning him to the local audience – the monopoly on his works long belonged to Moscow’s “Regina.” According to the owner, “Anna Nova” is still the only gallery in St. Petersburg that fully invests in the project and does not limit the artist in the choice of materials and themes. Eight years ago, when contemporary art galleries in St. Petersburg could be counted on one hand, Anna Nova became the antagonist of the “stagnant avant-gardists,” exhibited in the famous art cluster at Pushkinskaya, 10, and continues to uphold the standard. The local St. Petersburg press rates her very highly, despite the lack of consistency in her exhibition policy.

Founders: Anna Frants and Marina Koldobskaya
Address: Gorokhovaya Street, 1, apt. 18
In the late 1990s, Anna Frants opened a small private gallery in Manhattan, focusing on Leningrad’s underground scene. Cyland MediaLab, located in an apartment on Gorokhovaya Street, is engaged in quite different things, namely, art at the cutting edge of technological progress. Cyberart is only produced at Cyland MediaLab: artists are assisted with materials, programming, and information, but exhibitions are held at various other venues. Cyland does not collaborate with Moscow’s Art & Science Space lab; they have different interests: according to Anna Frants, Daria Parkhomenko is more fascinated by science as a pretext for art. Cyland focuses on the aesthetic dimension of new technologies: programming is the most fascinating medium.

Since 2007, Cyland has been organizing an international festival of cybernetic art. Cyberfest brings together music, video, installations, and performance. This forum, dedicated to the synthesis of art and technology, has always been prepared in close cooperation with St. Petersburg’s SCCA. Due to a change in the organization’s leadership this year, the fifth Cyberfest will take place without its support. Cyberart, for obvious reasons, is not sold, so Cyland is an expensive project existing on the sponsorship funds of CYLAND Foundation Inc. from New York. This non-profit foundation was established by Anna Frants in 1999 to build connections between the American and Russian art scenes.

“Kitchen” Studio
Project Coordinator: Anton Chumak
Address: Belinskogo Street, 9
Behind the scenes of the studio stands millionaire Igor Burdinsky, considered a romantic and fantasist in St. Petersburg. A few years ago, he bought the “Red Banner” factory to open a center for contemporary art there. However, as the architectural monument cannot be reconstructed, the “Red Banner” still lacks heating, and visitors to rare exhibitions walk in coats with their own vodka. The studio owes its existence to chance. On a vacant lot at Belinskogo, 9, Burdinsky’s team built a house, reconstructing the facade from photographs (a rarity for new architecture in St. Petersburg). However, the building did not become an office center, failing numerous inspections. In 2010, Anton Chumak held the young art festival “Psychonautics” there and remained.

“Kitchen” Studio is a 400 sq. m space without partitions, with concrete floors and plastered walls. Several artists, mainly painters and Chumak’s colleagues from “Mukha,” work there. Once a month, exhibitions are held not only for studio artists but also for young authors close to “Kitchen.” Next to the studio are a film club, a dance school, and a sewing workshop. A small bookshop has just opened, half of its books were bought by the building owner on the opening day. The “Psychonautics” festival is now called “Power Field” and, according to Chumak, is the largest annual event of young art in the city, supported by St. Petersburg’s Committee on Culture.

Director: Nadezhda Sheremetova
Address: Nevsky Prospekt, 32
The “FotoDepartament” Foundation for Information and Cultural Programs was established in 2006 by three enthusiasts, graduates of the “Petersburg Photographic Workshops,” to support emerging photographers. Twice a year, the foundation holds “Young Photography” exhibitions and brings renowned photographers for paid workshops, although the organizers strive to minimize the fee.

The gallery at “FotoDepartament” has been operating since 2009. The exhibition space is small – just one room, which also hosts lectures. The foundation uses the exhibition hall of the Mayakovsky Library, and major projects are prepared in cooperation with “Tkachi” and Rizzordi. Educational programs are the main focus. The foundation would like to hold large-scale exhibitions, but for now, it concentrates on the invisible work of nurturing a young generation of photographers. “We are almost the only organization that searches for young authors and is interested in developing context. There are simply no large-scale events in the city, this is obvious. The platform setting the tone in contemporary art is ‘Hermitage 20/21’; other ‘full-fledged’ platforms are yet to be seen. We have high hopes for the new lofts.”

“FotoDepartament” exists with the support of the St. Petersburg Committee for Culture and grants, and the premises – to get into “FotoDepartament,” you just need to turn into a yard from Nevsky Prospekt – are rented by the founders at their own expense, which is small by Moscow standards.

Loft-Project “ETAGI”
Director: Maria Romasheva
Address: Ligovsky Prospekt, 74
Stretching from the Moskovsky railway station to the San Galli garden is a block of red-brick warehouses. A few years ago, there was a project to create a “Russian Soho” here, an artistic-commercial and hangout complex. And the “ETAGI” loft in the building of the former Smolninsky bakery would have become the dominant feature of an unprecedented art district for St. Petersburg. However, the appearance of the huge “Gallery” shopping center not only marred the panorama of the station square but also put an end to the prospects for developing the industrial zone. “ETAGI” remained alone.

The loft, a business project of Maria Romasheva, does not position itself exclusively as an art space: across its five floors are a hostel, social work, a bookstore-library, and several galleries. Art is even displayed in the corridors (the White and Grey corridors are intended for photo exhibitions and media art). The permanent exhibition of “ETAGI” includes a garden of rubber stones by Petr Bely on the open terrace. All exhibition projects are approved by Romasheva and creative director Saveliy Arkhipenko. The bakery was reformatted according to the project of his architectural studio, located in “ETAGI.” Many events are paid entry, and spaces are rented out for events – “ETAGI” has proven to be a successful and popular project. It occupies an intermediate position between the non-commercial “Pushkinskaya, 10” and the creative business center “Tkachi,” which are nearby.

“Tkachi” Creative Space
Director: Sergey Komarov
Address: Embankment of the Obvodny Canal, 60
In this “creative space,” an entire floor is dedicated to the artistic component, but the role of art here is not primary. Primarily, “Tkachi” is a Class B office center with corresponding rental rates. “Creativity” is a clever marketing ploy that helped overcome crisis-induced difficulties and lease the restored ruins of the Anisimov weaving factory to small creative enterprises – schools, showrooms, gift shops. As the team of startup managers correctly calculated, creative people are drawn to each other, so even before the completion of the renovation, about 80% of the space in the “creative space” was leased.

“Tkachi” occupies the top floor of the factory. Sergey Komarov, the creative director of the space, and his team have a clear plan to develop the loft as a venue for concerts, theatrical productions, lectures, and exhibitions. Currently, a modular system is being constructed that will allow for the modeling of 1,300 square meters of space for different tasks.

The grand opening of “Tkachi” is scheduled for the end of May and will coincide with the Night of Museums. However, a year ago, the Rizzordi Foundation began the exhibition activities of “Tkachi” with a project by Gleb Kosorukov, in December there was a large exhibition of the St. Petersburg star Tatiana Akhmetgalieva, and in April, the “Defile on the Neva” shows will take place.

Author: Arseny Steiner
Date: March 1, 2012, 14:27