Staunton, Oct. 24 – Almost half of all the art galleries in the Russian Federation are in Moscow and St. Petersburg, with 59 in the two capitals and only 61 in the entire rest of the country. As a result, artists in the regions often move to those cities or at least seek to ensure that their work is displayed there.
The movement of artists to Moscow has long been noted, but the 7x7 news portal calls attention to one of the unexpected aspects of the desire of artists in the regions to have their production selected for display there – the “exoticization” of work from the regions and republics (semnasem.org/articles/2023/10/24/moskva-i-ponaehavshie).
Curators and gallery owners in the capitals often select works from regional and republic artists only if they are radically different from what is being produced in the capitals. This restricts the natural development of art in the former by leading artists outside the two cities to cultivate ethnic or regional characteristics – or at least those the center sees as typically theirs.
While some in the regions and republics may be pleased with this because it leads to the continued cultivation of ethnic and regional brands, others are horrified because it keeps artists in these places from trying out new forms and developing personally as artists, something they can’t do if they want to exhibit at the center.
This is a new form of colonialism, some regional artists and curators say, with the center deciding what art is appropriate for this or that region – and having the power to impose it because in many regions, only those who have exhibited in Moscow are viewed as real artists, just as in Moscow, only those who exhibit abroad have that status.
The 7x7 report, the first in a promised series of articles about the dependence of regions and republics on Moscow, says there is one segment of the art world where this hyper-centralization is not true: street art. The reason is simple: No city in Russia has the TV monitoring of public spaces that Moscow does, and so the others are freer.
That is, street artists say, in Moscow, the authorities can quickly track the appearance of street art and take action against it while in other places, the people in power often do not have any regular means of monitoring such art; and so those who choose to engage in street art are much freer.