MOSCOW—The Russian capital’s most famous gallery owner, Marat Guelman, will leave the Moscow art trade within a year and his eponymous gallery will merge with Galerie Volker Diehl, Berlin, Guelman has confirmed to ARTnewsletter.
Guelman made waves earlier this year when he sold half of his gallery to Alexander Smuzikov, a wealthy banker and collector, to focus on developing the Perm Museum of Contemporary Art, where he was appointed director. He now spends most of his time in Perm, in the Urals region. Guelman’s wife, Julia, kept a 50 percent stake in the gallery and continued to play a role in its operation. Volker Diehl will be buying her stake, according to Guelman.
“All of this will be done in three stages,” Guelman told ARTnewsletter in a telephone interview. “We are in the first stage now. We are starting a joint business of the two galleries, which means that we will use both galleries in Moscow and the gallery in Berlin for exhibitions of Russian and international artists. The second stage will be when Volker becomes the director of both galleries in Moscow and Berlin. The third stage will likely be called the Guelman Diehl Gallery.”
Guelman said the merged galleries will promote Russian contemporary art abroad and international contemporary art in Russia. The merger will take about one year. Smuzikov will retain his share in the gallery.
“The museum has got on its feet and I understood that in the near future I will be connected with the museum,” Guelman said of his focus on Perm and decision to part fully with the gallery. He had continued to play a role since his wife had a stake, he said. “This is a new situation. It is a very important moment. We were always a gallery that was a producer of Russian artists. There was a gallery; it was also an agency and a production company. Now it will be more international. International artists will appear. Collectors who are buying here are not only buying Russian art.”
Marat Guelman Gallery, founded in 1990, has become a well-known name on the Russian art scene. The gallery has two spaces in Moscow: at Winzavod, a contemporary-art center in a converted 19th-century wine factory, and on Polyanka Street in the Zamoskvorechye district, across the Moscow River from the Kremlin. Volker Diehl also has a space in Moscow, called Diehl + Gallery One. Diehl and Guelman, who have worked together for about five years now, also work closely with such Russian artists as the Blue Noses group.
“It’s not easy to say goodbye,” said Guelman, though he was clearly enthusiastic about his latest venture in Perm. On the day of Guelman’s interview with ARTnewsletter, Sergey Gordeev, a billionaire arts patron and senator representing the Perm region, and a driving force behind the new museum, had made a major donation: a collection and archive of 1970s underground art he had purchased. However, the museum has come under scrutiny in the wake of a nightclub fire earlier this month, which led to criticism that Perm region governor Oleg Chirkunov and Guelman have placed cultural initiatives ahead of the city’s poor infrastructure, standard of living, and public safety.