For all the contemporary art enthusiasts, especially those with a special proclivity for street art, Moscow is still an unexplored market. In our endeavor to learn more about the dominating ideas and tendencies in the contemporary art world of the Russian capital, we talked to Wildrik Batjes, a Director of the young and progressive MSK Eastside Gallery.
In this conversation we’ve learned about the history of this five-year-old gallery and the potential of the Moscow art scene, as well as about the plan Mr. Batjes has for the upcoming KÖLNER LISTE art fair.
Winning Over the Moscow Market
MSK Eastside Gallery is an art space from Moscow. Can you tell us a little bit more about the history of the enterprise? What prompted the decision to establish a new contemporary art gallery in this particular city?
Absolutely! MSK Eastside Gallery was created 5 years ago after I joined forces with my partners already based in Moscow for some time. MSK Eastside Gallery was the answer to a lack on the art market in Moscow giving chance to new local talents and showcasing artworks of emerging Russian artists and as well established artists from abroad. Our first platform was a New York style Loft gallery based in an old paper factory in the east side of Moscow which later became an art cluster called CCI Fabrika under the direction of Asya Filipova really unusual space for most of the Russian collectors at that time.
For five years, MSK Eastside Gallery has been operating successfully. A year ago, you opened another space in the city. While it seems Moscow has been good to you, how would you describe the situation in the Russian capital in the arts today?
Moscow has been good to us the same way we’re being good for the art here. The contemporary art is still a very fresh market in Russia and as anything new, it needs to develop and gain in maturity both on what galleries are showing as well as how collectors are collecting. The financial crisis over the last two years did not help and it slowed down the art market here but it also gave a fresh new wave of artists with strong social commitments.
Among the artists you represent, we can find a varied international selection, from Misha Most to Niels Shoe Meulman. What are the main criteria when you select artists? Are there any specific curatorial guidelines you follow?
Within the MSK Eastside Gallery Family of artists, you can definitely find a large range of artworks from the 19th-century technique of platinum printing to street art, minimal art, and social art, with artists from the US, Europe, Russia, and Caucasus. We, of course, do have specific curatorial guidelines and artistic guidelines, avoiding, for now, digital art and performance art. Our curators do specifically pay attention to the authentic handcraft behind the works as well as the context of the work.
Art Has No Limits – Inside or out
Your page mentions a particular vision and propagates collaboration across the arts. Would you be so kind to explain further the philosophy behind your gallery’s concept?
No limits & no boundaries.
You work with artists some of which come from the Urban and Street Art world. What is the reception of this new contemporary movement in Russia?
We worked and keep working with a lot of the Russian street art pioneers. We did organize here in Moscow in May 2014 in the Museum of Moscow the first historical post graffiti and street art exhibition in Russia. 35.000 visitors attended the exhibition within the 3 weeks of the show. It is well received and considered properly now as a form of art and not vandalism anymore.
Street Art often has a dual character, both global and local. Are there some local events, movements or occurrences in Moscow’s Street Art the rest of Europe should know about?
Of course! Moscow and Russia, in general, has a great roster of street & graffiti artists, with the pioneers know at an international level such as Misha Most, to mention one. We pretty much worked with a lot of them and still do, one of the main local events for such movements is The Biennale of Street Art called Artmospheria.
MSK Eastside Gallery in the Art World
How would you compare the art scene in Moscow and elsewhere in Europe? How does it differ from Cologne, if it does?
Moscow is still a growing art scene and much less developed than the European one. I’m not too familiar yet with Cologne art scene, we’ll be happy to compare and give you an answer within a month.
You are coming to KÖLNER LISTE with three very different artists from your roster: Ja’bagh Kaghado, Zak Kaghado, and Daria K. What are you planning to exhibit from each of these artists?
This is our first time participating at KÖLNER LISTE and expecting a lot from it. The three artists we will show there all create works in very different techniques and media. Ja’bagh Kaghado will show some of his mixed media distorted images from the “TORN” series.
Zak Kaghado will present his most recent visual expression of his series “Transgressive” from 2015. It reveals a darker social and poetic mood of his post-punk youth of the 80s, which was the basis this body of work. It’s characterized by industrial paint on canvases, personal repetitive words and poetry scribbled everywhere.
And our younger Russian artist, Daria K, will show “The Dead Poets” series, comprised of works on paper with ink, watercolor, and iodine.
What are the MSK Eastside Gallery plans for the rest of 2017?
Keep working hard! A Museum exhibition with MR Brainwash in September is to come, another one with Shusev Museum and our artists Zak Kaghado and Dmitry Teselkin end of the year. 5 solo and group exhibitions of our represented artists at our location are also in the plan. Additionally, we plan to take part of Cosmoscow Art Fair, Contemporary Istanbul and Artissima this year. Regarding the artists, for now, we are focusing on the ones we are representing at the gallery.
MSK Eastside Gallery will be presented to the Cologne public at the KÖLNER LISTE from April 28 – 30, 2017.