RUSSIAN POVERA. An exhibition of contemporary art. A Sergey Gordeev Project


SEPTEMBER 25, 2008

Press release

Russian Povera
A Sergey Gordeev Project

On September 25, 2008, an exhibit titled Russian Povera will open at the River Station Hall in Perm. It will be the largest showing of contemporary art in the region in decades. Works by 36 world-renowned Russian artists will be gathered for the occasion. Among the creators are Nikolay Polissky, Olga and Alexander Florensky, Valery Koshlyakov, Dmitry Gutov, Anatoly Osmolovsky, Alexander Brodsky, Peter Belyi, Vladimir Arkhipov, and others.

The idea of creating the exhibition belongs to Sergey Gordeev, a member of the Federation Council of Russia from the Administration of the Perm Region, well known for his projects in the spheres of culture and architecture. The idea was supported by Governor Oleg Chirkunov. Gallery owner Marat Guelman was invited as the curator.

The basis of the exhibition is work by artists who use the simplest, "poor" materials. This approach reveals and demonstrates all of the qualities of contemporary Russian art an art that is authentic, deep, an art that goes away from surface beauty towards a real miracle. These queries have form, a dialogue with the history of art, social responsibility, as well as the desire to find beauty in the simplest of things.

Among objects on display are unique pieces made of cardboard, old wood planks, rubber, iron, coal, ceramic tile, plastic, and even soap. The virtuosity of execution in working with such non-standard materials is highly valued by the world community. Many of the participating artists will come to Perm; during the show's run, they will give lectures and conduct workshops for all those who wish to take part in them.

The site of the exhibition the recently abandoned Perm River Station Hall is an architectural monument, which has been renovated for the occasion by the Russian Avant-Garde Foundation, founded by Sergey Gordeev. Now, the building, which is one the icons of the city, corresponds to all the requirements of an exhibition space. Currently, discussions are afoot as to the possible subsequent opening of a Museum of Contemporary Art in the River Station Hall building. In addition to offering exhibitions, the complex would also house a cultural center and creative arts workshops.

After its run in Perm, Russian Povera will travel to St. Petersburg, where it will be shown at the State Russian Museum. It will then go on to Moscow, Milan, and New York.


Russian Povera. An exhibition of contemporary art
Project idea Sergey Gordeev
Curator Marat Guelman
River Station Hall
Ordzhonikidze St., 2, Perm

Opening Hours:
September 26 October 25, 2008
12.00 p.m. 9 p.m.
Internet Site:
Press Materials:

Mandatory Press Accreditation
for the Press Conferences and the Opening:

Perm: Ivan Kolpakov +7 (342) 276 54 60, +7 (342) 276 71 06
Moscow: Milovzorova Natasha +7 (495) 228 11 59


Vladimir Arkhipov

Vladimir Arkhipov collects home-made everyday things and perceives folk material culture as an inspirational living process. He has turned the collecting of DIYs into an interdisciplinary research activity; he has made his collection archive an Internet resource. He shows us a thing with a biography, adds to it video, audio, and an urgent need of a person for his object. He explores a heretofore unseen area of marginal social practice as a wild forest, uprooting it for the new plow-land of art; he expands the horizon of the artistic. Arkhipov transfers the home-made thing from underneath the crumbling margins of modernity into the spotlight of aesthetic relevance.

About the artist

Alexander Brodsky

Alexander Brodsky creates impressive metaphors of contemporary reality which always have the air of the eternal and of otherworldly melancholy. His Pet Corner - a model of the unique life of human animals in urban cages - represented Russia at the architectural biennale in Venice. His Coma (in which oil slowly fills up a city) was said by Boris Orlov, a living Sots-Art master, to be the best work of the 1990s. Back then, it seemed to be a harbinger of doom; today, one remembers it as a prophecy coming true. Brodsky's visual language affirms the sublime, growing out of the ashes. Many of his works are realized in destruction, and in touching the order of loss, they manage to convey to us unchanging truth about ourselves.

About the artist

Dmitry Gutov

An artist of international stature, Dmitry Gutov creates out of completely heterogeneous sources - the conceptual tradition, the search for a painterly language, intellectual studies, graphic design, Eastern calligraphy - an inimitable aesthetic alloy, an organic authorial amalgamation. His objects evoke the feeling of the live process of the birth of art. Gutov has fundamentally reinvented the subject of inquiry of Moscow Conceptualists - Soviet culture. Out of its ruins, he has extracted the legacy of the philosopher of art Mikhail Lifshitz and connected it to the future.

About the artist

Valery Koshlyakov

Valery Koshlyakov thinks not in categories of time, but in categories of cultural spaces, where emptiness is more important than presence since it preserves within itself the spirit of the time, zeitgeist, which the artist then relays to the viewer. On giant pieces of corrugated cardboard, Koshlyakov creates monumental images of past grandeur, which amaze with their compositional rigor and the nobility of the fated fading. Like all monumentalists, he is totalitarian. The subjects of his paintings are Pompeian frescoes, Constructivist Moscow, Greek, Roman, and Stalinist architecture...

About the artist

Anatoly Osmolovsky

With the name of Anatoly Osmolovsky, last year's "artist of the year," one can connect all of the most notable milestones of Russian art of the last two decades. His works are kept in many of the world's important museums; his exhibitions are held worldwide. Osmolovsky is a figure of determined incarnation of his own aesthetic strategy. His radicalism has evolved from the social and political gesture of the 1990s to the purity of the avant-garde form and autonomy of art. Today, his objects affirm formal expression as a relevant statement.

About the artist

Nikolay Polissky

More than ten years ago, Nikolay Polissky as then a Moscow member of the artist group Mit'ki held his last exhibition at the Central House of Artists, afterwards trading in his tools of an ardent painter for what French theorists call "relational aesthetics." He built a house in the village of Nikola-Lenivets two hundred kilometers away from Moscow and now, along with the residents of the village, makes snowmen, builds palaces out of firewood, pyramids out of hay, and towers out of vines. Thanks to "relational aesthetics," the inhabitants of a forsaken village found something to do, started making money.

About the artist

Sergey Shekhovtsov

Sergey Shekhovtsov, after studying at the Surikov Fine Art Academy and the Institute for Problems in Contemporary Art, has changed from a painter into a radical sculptor, who has chosen to work with Styrofoam, the material of postproduction and packaging, trash, and refuse that is ready to take on any form. Shekhovtsov has reformulated sculpture and deprived it of its birthright pathos. He shows the world as a synthetic illusion, as a total readiness for mutation.

About the artist

Olga and Alexander Florensky

The artists Alexander and Olga Florensky - headliners of numerous exhibitions, key members of the group Mit'ki - live in St. Petersburg and work at their country-house. Their works are kept in dozens of museums around the world. For over twenty years, they have been making impossible objects and other equally wonderful things. Their objects are incredibly organic coalescences of found objects of various kinds - sometimes ones that have lived at home for a long time, sometimes ones found on the trash heap, sometimes bought at an expensive antiques stores.

About the artists

Peter Belyi

One of the deepest and subtlest of the St. Petersburg artists, Peter Bely concertedly explores the archaeology of cultural consciousness. For many years, he has been developing a project of "memorial modeling," in which he affirms culture as a current event outside of contemporaneity and contemporaneity as a future cultural layer for which trash is important. The artist builds into our everyday reality a dimension of great responsibility - something akin to a fatedness to history.

About the artist

About the project

Sergey Gordeev,
author of the project

Alexey Kallima. The Docking For those who encounter Perm for the first time, this mysterious city-state astounds with its history. A city-cum-factory, the center, both physical and mythical, of the "metallurgy civilization" for the entire length of its existence, it has given birth to many an advance, miracle, and accomplishment. They start with the Paleozoic Permian period, the bronze casts of the Permian Animal Style, Sassanid silver, wooden sculpture, and the Stroganov school of icon painting and go up to the building of the first ships at the Vsevolzhsky factories, the invention of electrical welding by N.G. Slavyanov, the cannons and legendary engine D30F6 for MIG31 airplanes, and the Proton carrier rocket's matchless RD275 engine, which still has no equals in the world.

The factories which served as the motors of the Permian civilization have not disappeared; they continue to develop and acquire new qualities, but they have also grown "tired" of pulling the city along all by themselves. They need help.

The world around us is changing rapidly; cities change. Some of them gain fame and become magnets of attraction for talented and ambitious people; others fall into decline and their population plummets.

A city with such a legendary history needs new sites of attraction, new magnets, new engines. We need a new engine!

In 1997, a supernova exploded in Europe's artistic sky. A heretofore unknown city of Bilbao opened a museum of contemporary art, Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. The new museum, built by the brilliant Frank Gehry, became a pilgrimage site for youth, tourists, and art lovers from around the world.


Perm needs its own museum of contemporary art! Not a museum as repository, but museum as dynamo, museum as engine - a headquarters for modernizing the city's life.

Unlike the "global" Guggenheim Bilbao, we need "our own" museum. When it comes to the number of myths, legends, or archaic heritage, Perm is just about Russia's leading city. "Our own," "Russian," "world of metallurgy" Perm museum is called upon to turn a giant layer of Permian subconscious, of hidden ambitions, into a project, a point on the map, a destination. The museum should be a source of the appearance of new talent in art, new collectors, significant cultural events in the city's life, exhibitions, lectures, debates, plans, ideas, programs and utopias, bounds of "our own" identity, and difference, difference, difference from others.

With the exhibition "Russian Povera," we begin the project of creating the Perm Museum of Contemporary Art. At my invitation, curator Marat Guelman has brought together in the exhibition "Russian Povera" artists working out an idea that might become the new reference point in Russian art of the 21st century.

We can only create a real museum together, if everyone makes an effort. The intelligentsia, artists, state authorities, philanthropists, scientists and researchers, engineers, factory workers, and entrepreneurs have to unite so that the idea of the Museum can become a reality.

Sergey Gordeev
Representative at the Federation Council of Russia from the Administration of the Perm Region

Marat Guelman,

Anatoly Osmolovsky. From the series Bread Normally, an exhibition is preceded by a conceptual text to which the artists respond in some way. Then, the theme gets filled out with meanings, works, an artistic language, and as a result, a show comes together. For the exhibition "Russian Povera," not a single work was made specifically to accommodate the concept. Our project has brought together that which has already come about, and the few pieces that were commissioned for the exhibition are part of the overall flow of their makers' work. Due to this, "Russian Povera" is a general overview of Russian art and not a thematic exhibition; that which has already happened acquires its name in this project.

Of course, in naming the show "Russian Povera," I fully realize the consonance with the Italian Arte Povera, but even given the many similar formal elements, I also find the difference obvious - as obvious as the difference between starving out of poverty and refusing to eat for the benefit of one's health and figure.

The artists taking part in "Russian Povera" have never thought of themselves as a single group with a common aesthetic - unlike Arte Povera, which was a movement with a unified aesthetic manifesto. Therefore, "Russian Povera" is a unique exhibition insofar as it presents art to art and gives the artists a reason to consider that which they have in common. The exhibition presents this not as a reason for disappointment, but as something which shows itself despite our will and with which we can enter the history of world art.

An inner turn to art made out of simple materials is just as archetypal as the myth of the poor artist who makes art out of nothing. It's magic.

"Poor" art has an important subtext - its naturalness. It is much closer to nature than art that is rich, glossy, and built on technologies. The very material of "poor" art returns us to naturalness, breaks down the border between natural and artificial. This art grows out of nature itself.

For twenty years, I have been approaching some understanding of art, and each show is an aspiration to convey my current understanding, some broader picture. Each time, it is a fragment of the whole, but one that says something important about what is going on in art in general.

Today, art and artists are busy separating themselves from the spheres that they themselves brought into being.


For example, there exists a threat to art from the direction of design. At international fairs, two thirds of the works are excellent designer objects. But design, unlike art, is a mass profession, which has its own technologies, a lot activity, and aggression. Therefore, an artist should block himself off from that.

At some point, art went down the path of communicational openness, of performance, and on its own created certain forms of interactive art as a particular type of entertainment. Now, entertainment also endangers art and threatens to invade its territory.

And most importantly, there is that which is called by the generic term "glamour." Aesthetics has become a science; it has spawned easily reproducible standards of beauty and glossy journalism. Mona Lisa looks at us from all the glossy magazines. And from this too art tries to separate itself.

By various means, art builds its own space.

"Poor" art, in my opinion, is what real art is. Wealth has migrated to other spheres; it has been co-opted, consumed, has turned into advertising, design, magazine beauty, what you will, having lost the ability to be art. Artists working with the aesthetic of the "poor," I am certain, think exactly this way.

This exhibition has a strong impulse for sharing its vision in social aspects. Better than anyone else, I understand how distorted the perception of contemporary Russian art is. There exists a clear concept of political art, and it is easily accepted by the West: if a country is unfree, then art should be socially aware and express protest. Because of this one-sided view, the most significant of names - Koshlyakov, Brodsky, Polissky - have fallen out of contemporaneity. They exist, but there is no discussion, no acuity of interest around them.

"Russian Povera" provides a different vision of contemporary art. It's a look from the position of a "poor" aesthetic at Russian art as a whole, and precisely because of this, aside from artists key for this theme, the exhibition contains works by a wide array of others.

This is a different look - an attempt at correcting the optics of examining Russian art. "Povera" turned out to be a very precise key to the understanding of our art as a whole. Today, success comes to clear images and clear artistic projects, and our exhibition helps to make looking at Russian art clearer.

Boris Groys,

& Florensky. Armadillo Skeleton Artists brought together in this exhibition are quite diverse, and their artistic programs, for the most part, do not coincide. And yet there is something that unifies them - namely, their shared propensity towards do it yourself, artisanal mode of production of art objects.

We are surrounded, for the most part, by things made by industrial means and in mass quantities. And here, one does not only speak of things found in everyday use. That which is today customarily called "glamour" is also a mass product - for the well to do or the quite simply rich masses. All these Pradas, Guccis, and Armanis have their boutiques all over the world - and sell in them the same products. The standardized aesthetic of contemporary mass culture is often imitated by contemporary artists - even when they themselves work manually. This proclivity of contemporary art to mimic the surrounding environment formed by modern mass design often neutralizes the individuality and originality of separate artistic positions; that which looks similar is often perceived by us as having similar content.

The exhibition Russian Povera brought together the dissidents of design, the dissidents of glamour. Each of them underscores the hand-made and home-made quality of his artistic production. And some artists, such as Valery Koshlyakov and Avdey Ter-Oganian, for example, also treat with sly irony their own attempts to do things properly but with only the available means.

Valery Koshlyakov reproduces architectural masterpieces in a material which completely deconstructs said masterpieces; Ter-Oganian demonstrates locally produced Modernist samples, which are incapable of cultural functioning in the framework of the contemporary symbolic economy. The same can be said of the home-baked icons created by Anatoly Osmolovsky. But in losing their glamorousness, all these things gain their own histories, become anthropomorphic and psychologized. The viewer's attention shifts from the object itself to its genealogy and its practical use.


This is particularly noticeable with Vladimir Arkhipov, whose works create an aura of time and place around objects, locate them within a history of use - and thus resist the loss of aura which Walter Benjamin diagnosed as the main characteristic of the age of mechanical reproduction.

The name of the exhibition references, of course, Arte Povera, the famous Italian artistic movement of the 1960s. There are, indeed, parallels here, but the differences seem to me more interesting and meaningful. Arte Povera, just like Italian neorealist cinema, reacted to the situation in post-war, post-fascist, post-heroic Italy. The lavishly pompous aesthetic of the Mussolini era was replaced with descriptions of the everyday life of the masses in a war-ravaged country. Needless to say, Russian povera art also reacts to the situation in post-totalitarian Russia. But one should not forget that what came in Italy after Arte Povera was, in fact, the epoch of design. In Italy, it is generally said that the aesthetics of Arte Povera were replaced in the 1980s not by a new, purely artistic direction, but, in fact, by the design of Armani, Versace, and Prada. In Russia, these firms arrived immediately after the fall of the Soviet regime, so that the aesthetics of Socialist Realism shifted immediately, practically without any breaks, into the aesthetics of glamour. Thus, as has already been noted, if Italian Arte Povera served as the forerunner of glamorous design, then Russian povera acts as opposition to it.

In this regard, the artists represented at the exhibiton are probably continuing more the traditions of Tatlin and Kabakov. Tatlin produced his things at a distance from those places where Soviet industry was coming into its own; Kabakov also specialized in the production of non-official type objects. But, of course, povera anti-design is also a kind of design. It is just a distinct kind of design, namely a design of originals rather than of mass-produced things. And since originals are quite prized in our time, the shabby appearance does not necessarily guarantee a low price; based on experience, the opposite seems more likely to be the case.

Designed by