The Garage Museum in Vienna

The Aksenov Family Foundation continues to promote the expansion of the presence of Russian cultural institutions on the international scene. In 2016, the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art was presented at the Vienna fair.

Possessing the world's largest collection of books and documents on the history of Russian contemporary art, The Garage Museum decided to present its archive to an international audience and gave viewers the opportunity to see five editions based on this archive covering the period from the middle of the last century to the present day.

The Foundation sees the importance of this mission not only in the presentation of archival materials known only to a narrow circle, but also in articulating the acute problem of Eastern European art in general. Contemporary post-war art emerged during the cultural isolation of the Eastern Bloc countries. This led to a multitude of national stories, which, on the one hand, were united with each other by a critical charge, but on the other hand, were disunited and sometimes even mutually impervious, and were written (literally and metaphorically) exclusively in national languages. This means that when entering the international level of exhibiting such art runs an extremely high risk of losing in the sense. Mladen Stylinovich, in his 1993 work, ironically stated: "An artist who cannot speak English is no artist", which can be regarded as a criticism of an obsession with internal history, but also as a criticism of domination of global discourse, where works of art not translated into the international language are not in demand as such. The task of reducing this risk and presenting Russian art in an undistorted form should be solved by two editions in English: a study of the first appearance of Russian contemporary art on the international art scene "Exhibit Russia: The New International Decade: 1986–1996" and its second part, which focuses on the key role of the first independent galleries in the formation of Moscow art life in the 1990s "Access Moscow: The Art Life of a City Revealed 1990–1999".

Our goal can be described as drawing public attention to the archive of the Garage Museum, which is the most significant collection of books, periodicals, personal archives of artists, photo and video documentation of events dedicated to Soviet and Russian art to date. On its basis, five books were published, telling about certain situations and phenomena in art. All of these publications, which were actively purchased by the guests of the fair, were displayed at the Garage stand. Importantly, it was viennacontemporary that attracted a large international audience interested in studying the history of contemporary art.
Andrey Misiano, The Garage Museum curator

Critical Soviet art of the second half of the century, deprived of access to both public exhibition areas and public channels of communication with the audience, often focused on documentation, archiving itself for posterity. Its difference was that, despite its impartial tone, it communicated primarily the private life of the subject and object, the private nature of everything that was happening. This, firstly, contrasted the artistic chronicle with the official voice of Soviet newspapers and magazines. Secondly, and most importantly, it reflected the life-creating tendency that revived at this time and took root in Eastern Europe more deeply than in other countries, — where art lived in apartments; where the bodily practice of performance prevailed over the alienated practices of painting, graphics, etc.; where art often ended in a personal conversation or story, without moving on to the next stage of production.

Нада Прлья. Работник, который не говорит по-английски, – не работник (A Worker Who Cannot Speak English Is No Worker). 2008. Шелк, краска. 50×80 см. Courtesy Mladen Stilinovic © Александр Мурашкин для viennacontemporary 2016
Hommage to Mladen Stylinovic in a special zone viennacontemporary 2016 dedicated to the art of the former countries of Yugoslavia and Albania

Undoubtedly, this has become another factor in the inaccessibility of Eastern European art in terms of its perception and understanding. Art and the life of the artist merged in a single stream of documentation, which itself became both a chronicle and a work of art. The idea of ​​life creation partly inherited the romantic tradition (the "Moscow romantic conceptualism", as Boris Groys called it, includes Georgy Kizevalter and Vadim Zakharov, whose archives — the album "Insider" and "Postscript after the R.I.P.: Video Documentation of Exhibitions of Contemporary Moscow Artists 1989–2014", respectively — were presented at the Garage stand), partly — the historical avant-garde (the connection of post-war art, which is traced by the last, fifth, edition of The Garage's "Performance in Russia. 1910–2010. Cartography of history").

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