While collecting the works of established classic artists from the 20th century, Zhukova is also forging working partnerships with emerging and mid-career artists. Yolacan, for example, initially contributed a video to the Garage project “Commercial Break” as part of the 2011 Venice Biennale and later returned to work on the current issue of Garage magazine. This patronage of newer and mid-career artists is as important now as it was a hundred years ago and can have the same profound impact.
As the lease on the current home of the GCCC ran its course and the venue closed its doors this winter, the museum is seeking to expand on an exponential scale. Having spent three years in a beloved Russian architectural landmark designed by the constructivist Melnikov, the GCCC has seemingly garnered the requisite accolades as both a notable venue and assembled an impressive team of curators who deliver world-class exhibitions in order to expand further. Marina Abramovic, Christain Marclay, Carsten Höller, William Kentridge and James Turrell have all had exhibitions in the space, as well as group exhibitions with über-cool titles including How Soon Is Now and Dysfashional. The new venue for the GCCC will be Gorky Park, which has historically been in an area of Moscow known for its cultural importance. Across the street sits the Central House of Artists and various significant cultural institutions, yet in recent years the area could benefit from a new lease of life. The new Garage Center, alongside the impressive efforts made by the new head of Moscow’s Cultural Department, Sergey Kapkov, will provide just that.
Further plans for the expansion of Zhukova’s cultural initiative amidst the vast development of New Holland Island in St. Petersburg have raised a storm of conjecture regarding the possibility that the site may become the permanent home of Abramovich’s vast personal collection. The plans for New Holland, a triangular island surrounded by canals linking the Moika and the Neva rivers, would turn the expansive landscape of former naval warehouses into a giant center for art, culture and commerce. Hannah Byers, an expert in Russian art and the Associate Director of Exhibition Management at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, describes the development as an “unprecedented opportunity.” With a proposal for a Guggenheim in Helsinki, a few hours away by high-speed train, the renaissance of St. Petersburg as a cultural capital with close links to Europe is an enticing possibility.
Zhukova’s interest in international (and particularly Western) art prompts some interesting questions regarding the continuing appetite of Russian audiences for the work of foreign artists. For a country that has a capital so closely connected to the heartland of Europe, but which stretches across the globe to China, an international cultural outlook is perhaps unsurprising. Historically, there have been two schools of Russian collectors, those interested in Russian art and those with a passion for the best and the new from the international art scene.
For the past 20 years the Russian market has seemingly been concentrated on local artists, but with the success of the Garage Center and its continued developments in Gorky Park and New Holland Island, the Russian artistic outlook is once again beginning to focus on international artists. This duality of interests is an element that Zhukova’s Garage Center excels at promoting.
By 1919 the Russian Constructivist Movement led by the sculptor Tatlin and designer and architect El Lissitzky represented the forefront of artistic expression, heavily influencing the Bauhaus and De Stijl movements throughout Western Europe. It will be interesting to see what the work of Zhukova and a new generation of Russian patrons and collectors will give rise to.
As Nic lljine significantly emphasizes, Zhukova’s Garage project is one of a few platforms in contemporary Russia where it is possible to “introduce both the international and the local art scene to a Russian audience.” International art stars, an impressive venue and new ideas; Zhukova has clearly discovered the essential elements necessary to be a modern-day patron and cultural innovator. You could do a lot worse than to keep an eye on the work flowing from the banks of the Moika in the years to come. And with brains, beauty and a seemingly bottomless bank account, Zhukova is already well on her way to being this century’s Peggy Guggeheim.