Eric Schlosser: "We need to help galleries come here, if only by reducing this natural fear of the unknown". Source: PressPhoto
Can western galleries and the emergent middle class discover Russian art? Creative director of Art Moscow, Eric Schlosser, talks to RBTH about educating art lovers, diversifying the art market and how to encourage foreign galleries the beautiful unknown.
Russia Beyond the Headlines: Art Moscow enters its 17th year. Is it a constant struggle to maintain a fair when the contemporary art is unpredictable?
Eric Schlosser: Of course if you compare [the climate] to a few years ago, you can say that there is less money circulating in the contemporary art market, especially in Russia. Some say that art lovers do not rush to Russian artists.
But I can take Art Paris for example: It was the first time that Russia was the main guest of an international art fair this year, with 90 Russian artists and nine Russian galleries from several cities represented.
Art Moscow-2012. Source: PressPhoto
Both French and Russian galleries sold Russian artists very well. We are very thankful for the Focus on Russia that they organized at Art Paris.
RBTH: What kind of problems would you tackle?
E.S.: I believe access to art is a problem in Russia. We have several galleries, plenty of good artists, museums, art centers, etc. But if you’re not somehow active in this milieu, it’s difficult to get useful information. There are also no streets or districts for galleries, unlike most capitals.
Besides 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. I’m talking about objects in the price range around 5000 euros (which is by the way 85 percent of gallery sales in most capitals).
Art Moscow-2012. Source: PressPhoto
But it’s too difficult and even intimidating. So they turn to things that are easier to access, to satisfy this need to buy something “beautiful.” For example design is more accessible and can fulfill this appetite.
RBTH: What kind of role does Art Moscow can play?
E.S.: Art Moscow is first of all an art fair, where galleries can exhibit their best works. So for five days, in Moscow, you have a place where important galleries get together and people can quietly and safely buy good art.
But it is also an instrument to address current situations, a platform of useful discussions, a place to acquire knowledge and a generator of positive change. Art Moscow cannot be just regarded as a commercial event.
Not because it’s not making any money, but because it fulfills an important social, political and cultural role. Especially in Russia where the contemporary art scene is not supported enough by a structured state policy or even [grass]roots organizations, as it happens in some other European countries.
As to art lovers, its important that a fair makes them discover new galleries from around the world, new artists or new works from artists they follow, helps them widen their socio-professional network. So at once you get a wide understanding of the art scene, which otherwise would require you to travel the globe.
RBTH: Are you changing the structure or orientation of the fair?
E.S.: Art fairs need to have a focus, and know what they want to achieve. This year we carefully extended to modern art. We are also increasing the regional approach, to be an important platform for art this side of Europe, Russia, Baltic states, the CIS, and even farther East.
Then we open a new platform to support young galleries and young artists, which is another way to promote affordable art.
RBTH: Foreign galleries are wary of Russia. They fear complications.
E.S.: We need to be at our best in terms of organization, ensure galleries especially coming from abroad, for which the financial investment is stronger, that everything is being done to make their participation worthwhile.
That is why we are now working on establishing good working relations and mechanisms with customs and transport companies, have good hotel partners, help with visas, etc.
Russia is not an easy country but it’s worth coming on many different levels. We need to help galleries come here, if only by reducing this natural fear of the unknown. And help them meet buyers during the fair.
That is why we are organizing VIP previews, building a stronger cooperation with the Biennale, offering private views for organizations (such as Banks, international law firms), providing volunteers at the fair to help with language barriers, improved media coverage, etc…
We also have a very friendly price policy for galleries, to compensate for other costs that can burden galleries (transport, hotel, customs, etc.).
And visitors spend only 7 euros to access the fair, which is not much compared to other fairs around the world (usually 20 euros).
Art Moscow, the 17th International art fair, takes place on September 18-22, 2013, at the Central House of Artists, 10 Krymsky val, Moscow
More information at the official website.
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