In the shadow of sanctions and a country at the tipping point economically and in world opinion, Russian artists and philanthropists are hoping that the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art will make Russia “as important an art center as New York or London, ” says Anton Belov, the 26 year old director of the museum, adding, “This is Russia. You never know what will happen tomorrow.”
The Wall Street Journal covers the development of the museum with Russian-born and California-raised philanthropist Dasha Zhukova, wife of billionaire Roman Abramovich, commissioning the design by Rem-Koolhaas, who is smashing the notion that an art museum has to be huge and shaped like a box. The museum will be located in Gorky park, and will feature, rather than eradicate, signs of decay, such as a crumbling mosaic. Gorky Park’s connection with the Soviet past is not an aspect that takes back seat in the new museum, that displays artwork from Communist era 1970s through the thawing of the Cold War in the 90s to the present. The Brezhnev-era building is a “found object, ” says Koolhass, with its broken brick and fading tiles.
With Vladimir Putin’s reactionary moves to encourage insular attitudes among Russians and to tighten censorship, the Garage Museum seeks to create a relationship with the rest of the world through art, and Zhukova says many of those involved in Garage are young and steeped in Western culture; “I found young Russians very knowledgeable about global culture, talking easily about art in Berlin, film in New York … Garage has become an outlet for youthful energy.”
Zhukova’s mother was a Jewish microbiologist who moved to America when her parents divorced. She had an interest in art before meeting her husband Roman Abramovich, and her interest has taken the form of philanthropy. Garage started as a family project, but the museum is expanding its funding beyond the Abramoviches with corporate sponsorship and individual donations.