When the Art Moscow fair first opened 17 years ago, it was truly a one of a kind event, a fair intended to bring together foreign and Russian galleries, showing the best art the galleries had to offer to Muscovites and anyone else who wanted to come. Now, the yearly art fair is one of the largest in Europe, yet with budgetary woes and a stagnant art market in Russia, it has decided to make significant changes. When the fair opens on Sept. 18, it will be Art Moscow 2.0, a reboot intended to bring new life and purpose.
Beside the wealthy people, who have now developed a direct access to art anywhere, there is a new middle class who can afford to buy contemporary art. This opinion on the burgeoning middle class reflects the direction that Art Moscow has taken this year, moving away from the expensive works by well-known names that have dominated the market in previous years towards a focus on young artists and less expensive art.
The traditional art market changes its format this year in the face of steep budget cuts and a moribund art market in Russia.
This approach was tested last year in a special exhibition called “New Platform” that took place on the third floor of the Central House of Artists. This format, which focused on galleries that had existed for three years or less and on works that cost less than $5000, will become the main event this year, instituting a radical change in the traditional exhibition.
This shift is accompanied by a general change of focus away from the more commercial aspects of the fair. This year, numerous wholly non-commercial events will be added to the traditional fair, including a project from the Bonn Biennale of Video Art that will be shown at the fair. An exhibit organized with the Vienna University of Fine Arts called “From the Virtual to Reality” will be a parallel event of Art Moscow and also part of the 5th Moscow Biennale. More international art will be showcased in the exhibit “Positive / Negative,” which will display Polish modern art, while a separate festival called “New Culture Fest” will be held in a different room of the Central House of Artists and is said to examine the future of art. Art Moscow will also be accompanied by a significant discussion and lecture program.
A result of the decommercialization of the fair is a significant reduction of the budget — Art Moscow’s budget this year is 10 million rubles ($309,372), down a third from previous years.
Despite this reduction in the budget, the fair will still have a significant deficit, and organizers hope to secure assistance from sponsors.
Overall, the Art Moscow staff seems hopeful that this year will see a re-energized fair in the new format. Art Moscow may be further energized by the fact that the fair will be contemporaneous with the 5th Moscow Biennale, which may help to focus further attention on the arts world in Moscow.
Art Moscow will be open from Sept. 18 to 22 at the Central House of Artists, 10 Krymsky Val, Metro Oktyabrskaya. For more information on Art Moscow and associated events, visit the Art Moscow website.