Garage Museum Reveals Hidden History of Russian Art

Dasha Zhukova's Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow Photo via: The Calvert Journal
Dasha Zhukova's Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow Photo via: The Calvert Journal

Dasha Zhukova’s Garage Museum of Contemporary Art will open Russia’s first public library devoted to modern and contemporary art, including “unofficial” art from the Soviet era.

The catalogues, texts and photographs will offer a glimpse into Russia’s alternative art history. Until the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, most of the artists who did not adopt the state-approved Soviet Realist style were forced to work underground. The museum is also building an archive of documentary materials relating to the development of contemporary art since the 1950s in Moscow, St Petersburg, and other cities. Significant Russian commercial galleries have already donated their archives.

The Garage team is well aware of the risks involved in their project, in light of Russia’s latest censorship laws. Although current regulations allow the display of material related to unofficial art from the 1980s and earlier “it is much more difficult to deal with works from the 1990s to 2010s, since artists from younger generations have criticised recent Russian authorities,” Sasha Obukhova, Garage’s head of research, told the Art Newspaper.

The library, due to open next December, will host up to 10,000 volumes. As well as the collection of rare items from Russia’s recent art history, it will also bring access to contemporary Western classics such as all of Documenta’s catalogues and the complete run of the influential journal October. “[Russian] students don’t have access to this information—they’ve been working not with a history, but with legends,” says Obukhova, the head of research at Garage.

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