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    Moscow Art-Fair Mania: Too Much of a Good Thing

    A glut of art fairs in Moscow this spring has caused some contemporary gallerists in Moscow to rethink their spring schedules. It has also caused a few art fair organizers to rethink the exhibiting galleries.

    MOSCOW—A glut of art fairs in Moscow this spring has caused some contemporary gallerists in Moscow to rethink their spring schedules. It has also caused a few art fair organizers to rethink the exhibiting galleries.

    The art-fair mania began with two months of events in March and April in honor of the Second Moscow Biennale. On the heels of Art Moscow, a fair of “20th-century and 21st-century contemporary art” in mid May, dealers found themselves at the fourth Moscow World Fine Art Fair (MWFAF). Offerings there ranged from classical antiquities to jewelry, fine art and decorative objects, and contemporary art.

    Some found it was all too much of a good thing. Contemporary galleries said the professional public—contemporary dealers, collectors and buyers—seemed smaller this year at the MWFAF, held from May 28-June 4 at the Manege Exhibition Hall, close to the Kremlin.

    This may be because some artists had no time to create work this spring between the Biennale-related events, Art Moscow in May and the MWFAF in June. By late spring, contemporary collectors already knew what was on offer from Russian artists.

    “This time the Moscow World Fine Arts Fair was quiet for us,” reports Natasha Milovzorova, representative for the Marat and Julia Guelman Gallery. (The gallery has recently changed its name to represent the more active role assumed by Marat’s wife, Julia.)

    “It was a year ago,” Milovzorova recalls, “that contemporary galleries joined this closed circle. A year ago it was fantastic and we were introduced to new people, including new collectors. This year there were no great breakthroughs for us. It was good but not the best.”

    Some of the fair organizers have wondered why the top Moscow galleries seemed to be showing similar works from the same artists at all the fairs. Comments Sixtine Crutchfield, general manager of Art Culture Studio, which organized the MWFAF: “The galleries are showing the famous five—the same artists from perestroika. The artists are getting older, and they all already show overseas.” (Crutchfield is reluctant to name names, but she is likely referring to well-known artists Vladimir Dubossarsky and Alexander Vinogradov, Oleg Kulik, Avdey Ter-Oganyan, and the AES Group, among others.)

    The Gary Tatintsian Gallery decided not to participate this year in the MWFAF. “It didn’t make sense,” says art director Viktoria Pukemova. “Last year we showed the Russian avant-garde, but we were surrounded by antique shop owners. This is not our public.”

    Contemporary gallerists were more positive about Art Moscow, held from May 16-20 at the Central House of Artists. The Tatintsian Gallery sold a Tony Matelli installation but declined to reveal the price.

    Cost is also a factor: The MWFAF costs €600 ($800) per square meter, while Art Moscow costs €200 ($268) per square meter. According to contemporary gallerists, exhibitors received a reduction in the rate at MWFAF, but it is still costlier.

    “A lot of the exhibitors were very happy, and we had fairly positive press throughout,” says Crutchfield. “We did not get any negative comments except one about the contemporary Russian galleries showing the same old stuff. The reality is, there are more than ten artists in Russia. This year, too, there was less interest in the same and more interest in the new.”