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Premiere in Moscow
The First Winners of the Kandinsky Prize

The Russian capital has grown into a booming center for art. More and more galleries are showing contemporary positions, while events like the Moscow Biennial draw international attention to the thriving Russian scene. Deutsche Bank has been supporting art in Russia for over twenty years – with presentations from its collection, sponsorship of exhibitions, and now with the country’s best-endowed art prize. Achim Drucks introduces the first winners of the Kandinsky Prize.

Award ceremony for the Kandinsky Prize at the
Winzavod Center of Contemporary Art in Moscow

The first awarding of the Kandinsky Prize was also a declaration of art's freedom. Just as the ceremony was about to begin in Moscow's Winzavod Center of Contemporary Art, two uniformed police officers stormed the stage. They embraced and kissed each other passionately, which the public responded to with loud approval. It was a demonstration of solidarity with the artist duo Blue Noses on the part of the event's organizers and guests, important figures from the fields of culture and finance. Through the intervention of the Russian Cultural Minister Alexander Sokolov, Blue Noses' photograph Era of Mercy (2005) was not allowed to be shown in a Paris exhibition, although the provocative image – two police officers kissing in a Siberian birch grove – had previously been shown without incident in the State Tretjakov Gallery in Moscow. Following the surprising action, the two Blue Noses, Sasha Shaburov and Slava Mizin, themselves went on stage to officiate at the award ceremony. The ceremony took place on December 4, Vasily Kandinsky's birthday, after whom the prize is named.

Artist of the Year::
Anatoly Osmolovsky
Photo: © ArtChronika Foundation

The artist revolutionary's abstract painting forged a bridge between the Russian and European avant-garde. In this vein, the Kandinsky Prize has also set out to widen the international attention paid to contemporary Russian art. For this reason, the project, initiated by the Deutsche Bank Foundation and Russia's leading art magazine ArtChronika, is not only introducing the nominees in Moscow; their works will also travel this year to Germany and the US.

Anatoly Osmolovsky, from the series Goods, 2007,
© Artchronika

AES+F (Tatiana Arzamasova, Lev Evzovich, Evgeny Svyatsky +
Vladimir Fridkes), Last Riot, 2007, video still
Courtesy of the Multimedia Art Centre, Triumph Gallery

One of the most influential figures on the international art scene, Thomas Krens, stepped up to the podium to present the 40,000 Euro award for first place. The Director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation announced Anatoly Osmolovsky as "Artist of the Year" for his series Goods. The native Muscovite prevailed over some very serious competition, including Yuri Avvakumov, whose sculptures cite the utopian designs of Russian architects of the 1910s and '20s, or Alexander Vinogradov and Vladimir Dubossarksky, who sample icons of Russian art on wall-sized panoramas ranging from Alexander Deineka's felled pilots to Malevich's Black Square. Even the artists' group AES+F, whose hyperaesthetic video triptych Last Riot caused a big stir at the last Venice Biennial, were beaten in the end by Osmolovsky.

The 1969-born artist, theoretician, and curator has long been active on the Moscow scene. His career began in the wild years following Perestroika, when the situation for Russian artists dramatically improved. While the so-called non-conformists had already long been active outside the state institutions, organizing exhibitions in private apartments and studios, many important figures, such as Ilya Kabakov and Vadim Zakharov, emigrated at some point to the west.

Anatoly Osmolovsky during a performance
at the Majakowski-Monument, 1993,
© Courtesy Trilistnik Verlag, Moskau

Osmolovsky, however, used his newly won freedom to put on anarchistic performances. In 1993, for instance, he climbed the monumental Mayakovsky Memorial. At first, the poet had been a symbol of the avant-garde; later, however, he allowed himself to be taken in by the Soviet regime. With his daredevil project, Osmolovsky sought to restore Mayakovsky to the inner circle of progressive artists. Since 2001, however, he has refrained from spectacular actions of this nature. Now, his work focuses on an investigation of abstraction, such as in his series Goods, which was shown at the documenta 12. These eleven bronze sculptures are based on the turrets of armed tanks.

Anatoly Osmolovsky, Bread, installation view documenta 12, 2007,
© Artchronika

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