Staunton, March 19 – Pandemic-related restrictions on movement and increasing tensions between the Russian powers that be and the art community have had an unexpected consequence, Anna Shilova says. They have made regional arts centers the breakthrough venues over the past year, displacing the usual suspects in Moscow.
On the basis of prizes handed out by a leading arts journal and official responses to them, the VTimes journalist says it is clear that “the regions are continuing to gather cultural strength and becoming ever more significant competitors of the Moscow and St.Petersburg grandees (vtimes.io/2021/03/18/kultura-bezhit-ot-tsentra-v-regioni-a3846).
The rise to competitive prominence of regional arts centers began “about five years ago,” she says; but it was significantly accelerated during the last pandemic year. The Urals has led this charge with the Yeltsin Center in Yekaterinburg, the Perm Museum of Contemporary Art, the Krasnoyarsk Museum Center, and the Arsenal Center in Nizhny Novgorod.
The progress these and other regional centers have made relative to Moscow and St. Petersburg was shown by the award handed out by The Art Newspaper Russia, a London-based but authoritative journal on the arts scene in the Russian Federation. “For the first time,” its award for an exhibit went to one outside of the capitals.
On the one hand, it is possible that some who stayed in the regions this year because of the pandemic might have migrated to the center. But on the other hand, tensions between the increasingly culturally conservative Russian government and the more modernist artistic world make Moscow less attractive as a destination.
Consequently, “if certain cultural figures feel a desire to keep themselves at a distance from the center, this is completely understandable,” Shilova says. “As they say in Siberia, God is high above and Moscow is far away.” As a result, the position of those making art in the regions is now better in many respects than those trying to do the same thing in the capital.