Russian capital gets new gallery in Melnikov bus depot...

A Kabakov retrospective will inaugurate CCC Moscow in September

LONDON. A 1927 bus garage in Moscow designed by the Constructivist architect Konstantin Melnikov is to be transformed into a gallery for contemporary art and culture.

The project is the brainchild of Daria “Dasha” Zhukova, 26, whose partner is the Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich.

Ms Zhukova, who also has business interests in the fashion industry, says she intends to bring international contemporary art to Moscow “to start a dialogue with a Russian audience. We hope to attract all kinds of people to the gallery, even those who know nothing about contemporary art.”

Speaking to The Art Newspaper in an exclusive

interview, Ms Zhukova said the Center for Contemporary Culture Moscow (CCC Moscow) will open in September with a retrospective devoted to Ilya and Emilia Kabakov—the artists’ first in their native city. The exhibition will be spread over three venues

This will include major installations which have never been seen in Russia. Ms Zhukova says Melnikov’s 85,000 square-foot garage is an ideal space to show works such as the artists’ Red Wagon, 1991, which she describes as “an iconic piece.” “The Melnikov Garage is a fantastic space. When I walked into it for the first time, I just knew it was meant for art,” she says.

The building is owned by the government and has been leased to the Federation of Jewish Communities in Russia for an initial period of 49 years. It has been under restoration since 2002 and has now been converted into an art gallery by London architect Jamie Fobert. CCC Moscow has been set up as a not-for-profit venture and will actively fundraise and seek international sponsors.

Details of how much has been spent so far and the future operating budget are not being disclosed—“it is impossible to predict figures at this stage” says Ms Zhukova. It is also not known how much Roman Abramovich—whose fortune is estimated at £11.7bn by The Sunday Times—has contributed towards the project. “Ms Zhukova is personally funding this project with the help of private investors,” say organisers.

Programming and fund-raising will be supervised by Mollie Dent-Brocklehurst who has left the Gagosian Gallery in London where she has served for ten years as a director to assume her new position.

Ms Dent-Brocklehurst says details of future shows can not yet be announced but that the centre is currently “in negotiations to host two or

three exhibitions” after the Kabakov retrospective.

She will be advised by an international council whose members include Sir Nicholas Serota, director of Tate in London.

According to Ms Zhukova, a key part of the centre’s purpose will be to develop an education programme. “We will encourage teachers to bring students. What you’re exposed to visually at a young age makes all the difference.” The centre will also build an art library and host lectures and talks by artists, says Ms Zhukova.

Ms Dent-Brocklehurst says that CCC Moscow will also commission artists to create site-specific installations “like Tate’s Turbine Hall” and will develop a programme to display the work of emerging Russian artists. “There will be two main sets of galleries,” she says, “and these will develop parallel displays.”

CCC Moscow will open for one evening only on 12 June to host an exclusive party designed to “put ourselves on the international art world map”, says Ms Dent-Brocklehurst. Guests will be treated to a performance by British singer Amy Winehouse, an installation by the Mexican artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer and a small exhibition on Konstantin Melnikov and the engineer Vladimir Shukhov who helped build the bus garage.

According to Ms Dent-Brocklehurst, there are also long-term plans to build a permanent collection and to establish a publications department which will publish texts in English and Russian. “It will probably take a few years before it is fully established,” she says.

Ms Dent-Brocklehurst, whose likely title will be “international director”, says she will travel to CCC Moscow “at least once a month”. Ms Zhukova is now searching for a director for the institution to deal with the day to day business of running the gallery. She herself says she plans “on being there most of the time”.

Speaking to The Art Newspaper, Emilia Kabakov said: “Dasha Zhukova is focused, concentrated, serious, with a lot of interesting and bright ideas for Russian culture and education. She has great plans and if she follows them through, she will emerge as a very serious force in the Russian and international

art scene.”

Commenting on the new project, Hans Ulrich-Obrist, co-director of Exhibitions and Programmes at the Serpentine in London, says: “This is a key moment in the development of the Russian art world. There are historic museums and impressive private galleries but CCC Moscow is attempting to do something new and incredibly ambitious. What is particularly exciting is the transdisciplinary nature of the project—it seeks to connect the world of art with other disciplines, to show that it is not isolated.”

Cristina Ruiz

and Jason Edward Kaufman

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