The fourteenth edition of the Salone del Mobile.Milano.Moscow provided an opportunity to make a return visit and take a fresh look at the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, the prestigious institution founded in 2008 by Roman Abramovich and Dasha Zhukova, now celebrating its 10th anniversary. This major milestone is being marked by an increasingly internationally based programme of exhibitions, workshops, site-specific installations and talks by leading figures in contemporary art (such as Damián Ortega and Anri Sala, for example). The events will valorise the historic collection, which documents the development of Russian art from the Fifties to the present day, along with the extraordinary premises, designed by Rem Koolhaas, right in the middle of Gorky Park.
We discuss this with Antov Belov, director of a museum now recognised as a “place for people, art, and ideas to create history.”
Garage Museum of Contemporary Art is much more than just an art exhibition space. How exactly did the project come about and what has set it apart right from the outset?
What made Garage different from the start were its openness and commitment to development. We kept launching new programs and setting new tasks for ourselves. Also, education has been a very important part of our activities. Besides, from the very beginning Garage’s mission has been to continue the project of the Russian Avant-Garde and modernism.
In 2014, Garage Center for Contemporary Culture changed its name to Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, reflecting the co-founders’ commitment to providing long-term public access to living artists and art histories. How has the project evolved since it began?
The launch of the archive in 2012, its gradual expansion, digitalization and study have provided a foundation for museum research activities at Garage. The launch of the first public library devoted to contemporary art in 2015 has also contributed to its development. Public programs that the museum runs along with exhibitions feature just under 3,000 events, so we are offering as much access as possible.
In 2015, you moved into the new premises designed by Rem Koolhaas (leaving the former bus garage designed by Konstantin Melnikov in the Twenties). What does be in Gorky Park, in the heart of the city, mean?
On the one hand this means more opportunities to interact with the public, on the other bigger responsibility. Many of our visitors find themselves in a museum of contemporary art for the first time, so their visit can determine weather contemporary art will become a part of their life.
What is the relationship between art and architecture?
They might be the two areas of interaction that are both the closest to each other and the furthest apart. If Kazimir Malevich saw architecture as an extension of art and started making architectures, some other artists believe architecture to be but a very applied activity. But then again, there is no building of a contemporary art museum today that could not be seen as an artistic gesture.
2018 marks the tenth anniversary of the museum’s foundation. How have you decided to celebrate it?
We have prepared a big exhibition program (insert the best exhibitions of this year) and launched several projects that might not be directly related to art but create an infrastructure for it and a better experience for visitors: a playground, an entrance from Leninsky Avenue and Tselinny Center in Kazakhstan.
Where does Garage Museum of Contemporary Art figure on the international art scene?
In the same place where it is actually located geographically: Russia and the post-Soviet space. Ideologically, too, we continue the avant-garde project with our fast, revolutionary and innovative development.
What plans are there for the future?
To organise more great projects, to make Garage a second home for more people, to finish the construction of our campus and to open a branch on another planet.