Celebrated Moscow curator Marat Guelman is as passionate about politics as he is about innovative art.
How did you become known as both a gallery owner and a political consultant?
I became well-known in the Nineties when dealing art was my main occupation. Gallery ratings had just emerged and Guelman’s Contemporary Art Gallery was always first. Being a gallery owner was a novel concept then. I think in a lot of ways, I became a symbol.
In 1996, I co-founded the Foundation for Effective Politics, along with [former presidential adviser] Gleb Pavlovsky. Then it was quite rare, but now it’s normal.
You recently announced that you and Aidan Salakhova are closing your galleries, while an old art gallery, XL, will be transformed into a different format. What is happening to the Russian art market?
In the past two years, the gallery has stopped making a profit. I can only speculate as to why, but I think the main issue is market conditions. Most wealthy people in Russia are either state bureaucrats or affiliated with the state and they’re not interested in revealing their income, so they don't collect.
When we looked at our list of clients – people who have bought our art from 1996 to 2008 – we saw that more than 80pc now live outside Russia.
If such established galleries are closing, what about the others?
They should take advantage of it. This is an opportunity for younger galleries to show the ambition and fervour that the more established galleries have lost. If they can find the kind of enthusiasm that we had in the Nineties, when we felt like we were ushering in a cultural revolution, and use their management skills, they could even do a better job.
As director of the Perm Museum of Contemporary Art, you want to turn Perm into a cultural capital. How much of that plan has been achieved?
Around 10pc. We wanted to turn Perm, which is near the Urals, into a European city with a rich cultural life. However, there’s not enough drive for that yet. So, we have organised a festival called White Nights which runs for a month every year. The hope is that the concept will slowly gain a foothold.
Do you see yourself as a liberal?
I do, although I’ve never fought for political power or been part of the opposition. But I always say what I think. I present alternatives without trying to change the whole system. I want to prove that things can work differently.
Female punk band Pussy Riot’s controversial performance at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour (which resulted in three of the band being sent to prison) was mainly seen as a political protest. What do you make of its artistic value?
I refuse to debate the artistic value of their performance while the girls are still in prison. The important thing now is that they are released.
Has the band’s performance made Russians more wary of contemporary art?
Radicals perform a very important function. On December 10 (a day of protest in Moscow), artists realised that they were no longer the social avant-garde. Society proved that it was actually ahead of them, that it was more radical. It was a lesson to them, a reminder that they should resist being integrated into the system.
ну и чтоб два раза не вставать про выставку в красноярске (осторожно испанский)
El Departamento de Cultura de la región de Krasnoyarsk no prohibirá la exposición de Marat Guelman “Patria”, que se inaugurará en el Museo de Krasnoyarsk, informa Interfax.