September 18 – November 24, 2013
Ekaterina Cultural Foundation, Garage Centre for Contemporary Culture and XL Projects present the exhibition Reconstruction.
Ekaterina Cultural Foundation continues its programme of exhibitions devoted to Russian art of the 20th and start of the 21st centuries. A number of major exhibitions and research projects have already been held in the halls of the Foundation: Authorized for Export from the USSR focused on one of the principle movements in the artistic life of Soviet Moscow during the mid-1950s, at the time of Khrushchev's thaw; Field of Action: the Moscow Conceptual School in Context was dedicated to Russian art of the 1970s and 1980s; and the The New Academy, St. Petersburg dealt with the most striking artistic phenomenon to emerge from St. Petersburg in the 1990s. In carrying out these projects the Foundation worked closely with state museums (the Tretyakov Gallery and Pushkin Museum), as well as with private foundations and collections. All of the exhibitions were accompanied by catalogues. Reconstruction will be the sixth project by the Foundation as part of the Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art.
The Reconstruction exhibition, curated by Elena Selina, will offer a view of Moscow artistic life in the 1990s. Ekaterina Cultural Foundation creators, Vladimir and Ekaterina Semenikhin, said:
"We are glad that Elena Selina, who is one of our favourite gallery owners, and whom we have known since the 1990s, has agreed to act as curator. Our experience as collectors of contemporary Russian art makes us believe that this will be a timely and important project, which will help to recall the best moments in the recent history of Moscow artistic life. The project has been challenging to organize, requiring coordination between several institutions. We are very pleased that XL Projects and the Garage Centre for Contemporary Culture have joined forces with us on this occasion, and we note that this is our first major project with the Garage Center."
Reconstruction is one of the first attempts to interpret Moscow art life from 1990 to 2000. This was a crucial period and one of unprecedented intensity. It saw the heyday of actionism and important group exhibitions at non-commercial spaces and galleries, which sprang up almost simultaneously and immediately became venues for experiment, enabling strategies and practices that were new to Moscow to be shown and developed. This was the decade when contemporary art in Russia was legalized and catapulted forwards – a very special time.
Absence of government support meant that responsibility for the development of contemporary art was assumed by private institutions, particularly galleries, which came into being as a consequence of the artistic situation as such and were closely linked with it. Each of these experimental spaces quickly acquired its own characteristic signature, which gradually developed and acquired definition. Gallery development was driven by the urge to show and popularize the main directions of 1990s art.
Another specific feature of the local art situation in the 1990s was that galleries didn't arise in response to market needs, as happened in the rest of the world, but in spite of the state of the market. So the main driving force was precisely the development of art and not the extraction of profit. The overall expectations and needs of the time tended towards a search for interesting curatorial solutions. Participants in this process gave little thought to the development of a properly functioning market. That was something which everyone wanted, but the pathos of gallery shows was directed, first and foremost, to the development and support of art. This defining thesis of the decade is the starting point for the Reconstruction exhibition, which aims to show contemporary art through the experience of galleries as experimental spaces, working in the complete absence of an art market, which, as we know, only began to take shape in Russia from 2001.
This exhibition is about the artistic quests of the 1990s, their successes and failures, discoveries and mistakes. It is highly important to show this material, or as much of it as can be reconstructed today. Specifically today – in the evident context of changes in Moscow art, but already "after" and not "before" the market. Analysis of the past might enable us to glimpse the present from a different angle, helping us to finally come to terms with problems of self-identification and to understand the local specifics of our development path – to abandon certain things and take up other things, which we can attempt to develop in the future.
A three-volume catalogue has been prepared to go with the exhibition. As well as full presentation of the exhibits, the catalogue also contains substantial articles by leading Russian art historians, chronicles of artistic events in the 1990s, publication of many rare documents and photographs from the scientific archive of the Garage Center for Contemporary Culture. The Garage Educational Center in Gorky Park will hold a major lecture programme to coincide with the exhibition. Sasha Obukhova, who is in charge of Center's scientific department, will deliver a series of lectures devoted to art in the 1990s, offering a year-by-year account of Moscow artistic life at that time. Leaders of 1990s art - artists, gallery owners and curators – will also give presentations as part of the Garage Centre educational programme.
As well as being an important supplement to the Reconstruction exhibition, the catalogue and educational programme are also a presentation of the scientific archive of the Garage Center for Contemporary Art, which is committed to identifying, preserving and popularizing the best of Russian art.
The Reconstruction project will be presented in two parts. The first, devoted to art in 1990 – 1995, opens on the September 17 as part of the special programme of the Moscow International Biennale of Contemporary Art. The second, dealing with the history of Moscow art in 1996 – 2000, will open on December 17. The exhibitions will include reconstructions of projects carried out by Moscow galleries in the 1990s, both in spaces that have since closed (First Gallery, L-Gallery, 1.0, School, etc.), and spaces that are still operating (Regina, XL Gallery, Krokin, etc.).
As well as bringing back the atmosphere of the 1990s and studying the manner and mechanisms of exhibition-making at the time, Reconstruction is focused on analysis of the work of artists who were active in that period. This approach is important for the general viewer, for researchers, students and, particularly, young artists, for whom the understanding and analysis of history can serve as an important stimulus for their future development.