Russian Dissident Leaves for Montenegro, Plans a New Space

He's one of the many intellectuals now fleeing Putin's Russia.

Marat Guelman, the founder and former director of Perm Museum of Contemporary Art (PERMM) in Russia, is moving to Montenegro in a bid to escape the country’s fraught political situation. According to the Art Newspaper, he is hoping to set up a new art center.

Guelman’s troubles began in 2013, when he backed the staging of the exhibition “Welcome! Sochi 2014” at PERMM. The show gathered artworks deemed by Russian censors to ridicule the Sochi Winter Olympics and Stalin. Yet, Guelman was adamant that the exhibition should go ahead.

The authorities shut down the show shortly after the launch and an investigation followed suit. It concluded that the works were “extremist” and Guelman was abruptly dismissed.

“I understand that, for those who continue to defend their principles in Russia, things will get harder after I leave,” Guelman wrote in the liberal magazine Novoye Vremya last December.

Guelman has found greener pastures in the Adriatic town of Budva, where he will set up a new venture, the Dukley European Art Community. It will take up to three years for the project to be up and running,  Guelman told TAN. While being “in and of itself European,” the art center will have a strong Russian focus.

Guelman isn’t the only one currently looking for a freer context to work in. TAN reports that a growing number of artists and art professionals are leaving Russia, dejected by Vladimir Putin’s ever-tighter restrictions on freedom of speech and the onset of the war in Ukraine. But emigrating is not economically feasible for many young students and struggling artists.

Even securing an international career is not tantamount to feeling completely free. Ekaterina Degot, artistic director at Cologne’s Akademie der Künste der Welt and teacher at Moscow’s Rodchenko Art School, told TAN that the Russian police had warned her that she had been listed as a potential extremist because she had taught Pussy Riot member Yekaterina Samutsevich.

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