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Art Moscow 2006 plus Interview with Mr. Bychkov


This year's Art Moscow faces the 10th anniversary of a success story in Russia. In Moscow the capital of the biggest country in the world contemporary art is a small but steadily growing plantlet. The city is a Moloch and sparsely there are the art spots like little green gardens. But nevertheless the art scene is very committed and knows about the big job. The first years of the Art Moscow shows have been dedicated to mediate between a consumption orientated society and the appreciation of contemporary art. Since a few years the Art Moscow management changes the show into a real market place in addition to its traditional function of aesthetic and intellectual education. It seems that Art Moscow is successfully managing the balancing act between education and bazaar. We've had a long interview with Vassily Bychkov the Director of the international confederation of artist union and the general director of Expo-Park exhibition projects about his way into and through the arts. Additionally you can find some nice gallery statements at the end of this article.

Marek Claassen, Director Artfacts.Net in discussion with Vassily Bychkov, Director of Art MoscowAfN: Mr. Bychkov, how did you come to the art world?

Mr. Bychkov: Well, I studied architecture and my family background is also art. I began my career as a designer. Designer of exhibition process and exhibition spaces. And then, in the middle of the nineteens I was interested in exhibition organizing and as I am interested in art one of the first ideas Fwas the Art Moscow fair.

AfN: How many fairs did you organize? This is then ten. All the Art Moscow fairs?

Mr. Bychkov: We organize fifteen exhibition projects per year.

AfN: Fifteen?

Mr. Bychkov: Fifteen, yes. It is Art Moscow fair, it is exhibition of architecture and design, its antiques salon, non fiction fair an exhibition for high quality literature, antique book fair, design and advertising fair, shop design fair, a...

AfN: So, you are the director of every exhibition that is taking place here?

Mr. Bychkov: Yes, and others.

AfN: That's written on your web site?

Mr. Bychkov: Yes

AfN: The Pravda wrote in its English version: "The main objective of the fair is not to sell works of art, but to educate collectors in Russia". This year you organized a conference called: "Art and Education". What is the purpose of that aesthetic education?

Mr. Bychkov: For some years the Art Moscow fair has been a multi functional fair. The function of the fair was education. Education for contemporary art education in Russia. In recent years the Art Moscow has become first of all the fair. The sales fair of contemporary art. Sales at the fair is permanently increasing. And the amount of progression is twice per year.

But the Art Moscow fair is still a very important project in the art sphere because of point we and our partners try our best to run educational programs during the fair. The most important point is the thing of education in the sphere of art. We and our partners are using our energy in the promotion of the art fair. Like central point of contemporary art, for example this year our partner, we have a new partner, it is Interros a publisher program of interest. A very important partner. They organize special conference about education in art. This is very important because it is one of the biggest problems of our market is education. All, I mean the galleries and all cultural institutions need new people, new artists, new curators, new specialists in different fields of contemporary art. It is very important. Now we have a market which is structured a little bit more than in the nineteens.

The structure of the Russian art market is defined by the level of galleries. We have top galleries Ц about 10 galleries Ц and other galleries and not all of the galleries are represented at the Art Moscow fair. And we have some names among artists that are famous. This star names of artists who are presented at the marked and we have some press representatives who are qualified enough to write correctly about events and galleries. And also we have art fairs. But all these fairs need more people who are qualified enough doing these fairs.

AfN: When you enter the Art Moscow you have to pass by a 200 square meter painting in manga style that represents the battle between Russian art people from Georgy Ostretsov. This painting refers to key players and key art works in the Russian art scene fighting against each other. On the other hand Aidan Salakhova generously encouraged Russian collectors to buy from foreign galleries. How does this go together?

Mr. Bychkov: I am not quite competent to comment on this painting but Georgy Ostretsov is a quite famous artist in Russia. And this painting is devoted to 10 year jubilee of the Art Moscow fair. That represents the situation in the market within these ten years. And this painting is quite understandable for the participants of the market in Russia. Off course it is a joke, it is grotesque and it is off course not a realistic painting.

AfN: Yes but on the one hand you have this struggling within the art scene and on the other hand Aidan walks around and tells the collectors: Buy from this gallery! Without taking any commission. Normally within, within for example the German galleries there is a fight like within the Russian galleries and the artists. Everybody fights against each other. And then Aidan comes and makes a bridges and invites everybody. Hey come buy art from other galleries from my competitors. So you have on the one hand an inside fight but from outside you embrace the others. Is this what you do?

Mr. Bychkov: Of course business is competitive and the galleries represented here are competitors. But at the same time all of them are interested in public attention and in attracting this attention to the audience but to the other galleries as well and the fair is the point and the way to attract this attention.

As you know they try to attract the visitors to the point where the action takes place and there are also competitors.

AfN: To speak about education and markets. 2004 the main sales have been two highly priced works by Ilya Kabakov. 2005 the sales climbed over two million US-Dollars and have diversified so well that you could draw statistics on the relation of foreign and national gallery sales. If you would draw a future line, do you see the Russian market competitive to Ц let's say Asia?

Mr. Bychkov: The Russian art market will increase. The main centers of art are America and Europa. Russia will develop in parallel with the European art market and it will increase.

AfN: For my subjective feeling the quality of the works shown in this fair has increased dramatically. Do you feel the same?

Mr. Bychkov: Well the gallerists, art critics and collectors say the same. So, I agree to that opinion. One of the reasons for this is the great number of foreign galleries presented at the fair.

We have galleries from China, from America and from Europe. And the other reasons is the work of our expert council. They had 150 application forms and only 68 application forms are adopted by the experts. In my opinion the art presented at the fair is not such conflicted, not such aggressive, not such provocative, not such keen and challenging as art items that have been presented before.

This is the reason of market demands. Art Basel buyers they want to see items like this. That is not bad.

AfN: [laughing]

Mr. Bychkov: I am sorrow about the reduction of the level of the challenging and radical sense presented at the fair Ц as the fair organizer.

AfN: In the nonprofit sector of the fair I have seen numerous installations but market wise installation art and video does play not role. Why is video and installation such an issue for you?

Mr. Bychkov: Video art of course is a product for museums and for installations in galleries and its not often bought by private collectors. But it has great potential and in Venice Biennial and the Documenta you can see the great place that video art has in the art world. And of course such an event is the Art Moscow and should be aware of the fact and to present video art.

AfN: The ARCO fair in Madrid invites every year a partner country and invites galleries from that countries under special conditions. Did you copy that idea by giving the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia such a presentation?

Mr. Bychkov: No, we haven't copied the ARCO. We discussed the point in the expert council, but we're not going to do this regularly and have some reason for this. One of the main reasons maybe is that we do not feel the energy on part of the foreign countries to offer us a variance for such a congregation and so we are not going to do this. The presentation of German galleries Ц the reason for this is not economical and ideological. So its not a copy of Madrid exhibition.

AfN: Last big issue! Organization. Lots of art works have not been arrived for the special event at the 16th of May. Some galleries have received some works during the official opening at the 17th. Today is the 18th and I still see workers installing things. Can this be seen as as an approach to FLUXUS art or is this meant to be a problem?

Mr. Bychkov: [laughing] On the 16th of May we had the preview party. It was a special party for collectors. They see the work and they see the mantling period. It is special action, so they have the illusion that they participate in the process and also they had the opinion that nobody before them saw the art works that is presented at the fair before them. At the 17th of May they may have been some technical problems and some artists -its their idea of the projects to show the visitors how they work.

AfN: Do you have a personal motto or live slogan?

Mr. Bychkov: I don't have a live slogan. But our company has a mission statement. It sounds like: We improve intellectual power of Russia to international context. This is our mission statement for various fairs.

AfN: Mr. Bychkov, thank you for the interview.

Mr. Bychkov: Welcome!

AfN: Education is a big issue.

Mr. Bychkov: Today I had some kind of meeting in Kommersant Daily. I had a meeting with the heads of different departments. And one of them Alexey Tarkhanov said: Look, they are business man and woman (he said this about me and my wife). They have to do business but they are idealists.

AfN: [laughing]

Mr. Bychkov: They speak about problems in the art market, about architecture, about art and maybe Ц its is our problem of course because our business is not so profitable. Because we manage fairs around culture, around art, around architecture, around design. But this is very important for the art market in Russia because its image in Russia. You know like Mr. Guelman said in the press conference yesterday. The cost of Picasso for example is around 80 billion US-Dollars...

AfN: Eighteen?

Mr. Bychkov: Eighty. Is the same like the value of all of our Gazprom for example, you know.

AfN: Yeah, yeah. Everybody knows Gazprom. It's the third biggest in the world.

Mr. Bychkov: It is very important to improve all our intellect; including art, including architecture and books to improve to international context. And it is not possible to do that if you only think in business.

AfN: This is why normally the government funds or subsidize art. And you do it as an entrepreneur. That is a huge difference, when a whole state does it or when a small company does it. So, the effort can not be spelled out enough. This is such an important work because it is for the state it is not only for you. It means thinking over decades, you know, changing or bringing Russia back to what it had been. In former times in arts. This is a big deal. I mean this is a really big deal. But from my point of view the creativity is there. It just has to be done. To be honest I was thinking: Oh, I have to go to Moscow again. [everybody laughing] And when I came I was Ц Wow Ц very impressed. Really because we travel a lot to China these days and they develop so fast and than I thought: but the Russians [everybody laughing again]. But not. It is a difference. I am really keen to see what happens next year.

Mr. Bychkov: See you.

Guelman Gallery (Mr. and Ms. Guelman) AfN: How many times did you take part on the Art Moscow?

Mr. Guelman: Since nine years. The first year of the fair was really different then now old fashioned and keen competition. It is only since the last four to three years that the fair has become commercial and reasonable.

AfN: How do you think the fair is developing?

Mr. Guelman: I think that the development is interesting. I am happy about the international galleries comming over to take part in the fair and to discuss and change our problems.

AfN: Will you come back next year?

Mr. Guelman: Last year was fantastic. We sold very well. It was enormous. This year we sold well but did more networking. We've done six cooperations, one group show to a big museum, five personal exhibitions in galleries worldwide for our artists. So I am happy and will defenitely come back next year.

I-20 (Paul Judelson) AfN: How many times did you take part on the Art Moscow?

Mr. Judelson: This is our second time.

AfN: How do you think the fair is developing?

Mr. Judelson: I think the fair is working its way forward. I would like to see more western galleries and not only Germans but mixed.

I always had a special contact to Russia as I am working for a long time together with two Russian artists, Sergej Bugaev (Afrika) and... The shipment was the most expensive part of the art fair and I hope that this could be organized better next year.

AfN: Will you come back next year?

Mr. Judelson: It depends on my sales at the end of the day.

Christa Schübbe of Galerie Christa SchübbeAfN: How many times did you take part on the Art Moscow?

Fr. Schübbe: Two times. This year and last year.

AfN: How do you think the fair is developing?

Fr. Schübbe: I can really feel how the fair has become better. People are more interested and curious and I think the third floor has developed from last year.

AfN: Will you come back next year?

Fr. Schübbe: Yes of course. I think it is a big challenging country like China.

Caprice Horn of Galerie Caprice HornAfN: How many times did you take part on the Art Moscow?

Fr. Horn: This is my first time.

AfN: What do you think about the fair?

Fr. Horn: I was surprised about the fair. How good it is and everyone is telling that the fair has done a big step forward. So, for me it was better than expected. I just think that the organizing about transport and about setting up the show has to approve.

AfN: Will you come back next year?

Fr. Horn: Yes, I would like to come back next year.

pARTner Gallery (Vladimir Frolov) AfN: How many times did you take part on the Art Moscow?

Mr. Frolov: This is my second time.

AfN: What do you think about the fair?

Mr. Frolov: I like the fair and I think it gets better every year. There are more interested people, more art critics. And I think the fair is heading to an international level.

AfN: Will you come back next year?

Mr. Frolov: Yes, I will come back next year.

Ekatherina Iragui (Karine Fenina, Assistant) AfN: How many times did you take part on the Art Moscow?

Ms. Fenina: This is our third year.

AfN: How do you think the fair is developing?

Ms. Fenina: I think its heading to more professionality. Not more people but more quality of people is coming.

AfN: Will you come back next year?

Ms. Fenina: We sold well yesterday. So we are happy about the fair and we will come back next year for sure.

Tatintsian Gallery (Gary Tatintsian) AfN: How many times did you take part on the Art Moscow?

Mr. Tatintsian: This is my second time.

AfN: How do you think the fair is developing?

Mr. Tatintsian: I think it is developing in the right direction.

AfN: Is it what you expected?

Mr. Tatintsian: Much better than I thought.

AfN: Will you come back next year?

Mr. Tatintsian: Absolutely. And I will also be here in 2026 [laughing]



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