Dasha Zhukova’s Rem Koolhaas-Designed Museum Will Capture a Moscow Moment

This past September artnet News reported that Russian philanthropist and art collector Dasha Zhukova had set a June 2015 date for the grand opening of her Garage Museum of Contemporary Art (see Moscow’s Garage Museum Sets June 2015 Opening Date).

In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, Zhukova discusses her plans for the museum as well as its cultural significance in introducing Russia to the international art world. Housed in Gorky Park, where the current temporary location is, the new Rem Koolhaas-designed Garage Museum will see its decayed parts, such as a crumbling mosaic, as centerpieces within the building’s architecture. “The building is basically a found object,” Koolhaas says of the battered pillars and gaping holes. Zhukova also chimes in, “Rem likes to challenge the white-cube tradition of Western museums…. The raw brick and broken tiles will be a more stimulating backdrop for art.”

Although the museum has the largest collection of Russian art from the 1970s to the 90s, Zhukova tries to capture a Moscow moment. “I tried to find the pulse of the people,” she said. “I found young Russians very knowledgeable about global culture, talking easily about art in Berlin, film in New York… Garage has become an outlet for that youthful energy.” Indeed, the average age of its employees is 28.

Her plans for the museum are big. “Garage started out as a family project,” says Zhukova. “It has a different scale now, as a public institution that is privately funded.” Although Zhukova and her husband, billionaire Roman Abramovich, will be funding the project, its director Anton Belov adds that the museum’s dependence on the couple will be less and less, with corporate sponsorship, individual donations, foundation grants, stores sales, and entry fees being their source of financial stability in years to come. (Entry fees, really? They count for around 10% or less of revenue at major New York museums with strong tourist audiences.)

Belov speculates, “I think within a decade, [Moscow] could be as important an art center as New York or London.” However with Russia’s political climate and its recent tumultuous economic turn (see Art Collector Roman Abramovich Just Lost $450 Million), we’ll have to wait and see. “But this is Russia,” Belov adds. “You never know what will happen tomorrow.”


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