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Cosmoscow 2021: Spectacular, Against All Odds

J u l i a  K r y s h e v i c h

Cosmoscow 2021: Spectacular, Against All Odds

Attending Cosmoscow this year (Sep. 18-20, Manege Central Exhibition Hall, Moscow) was certainly a special experience. Firstly, the art fair unfolded into a record-breaking, fully-fledged programme, despite all those unexpected changes that took place at short notice. Initially planned to run at Gostiny Dvor in the second week of September, the event doesn’t seem to have lost anything from being transferred in space and time. The current edition featured 82 galleries (a number never seen at Cosmoscow before), 16 of which enjoy international presence in countries like Austria, Argentina, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Georgia, Germany, Hong-Kong, Switzerland, the US, and Estonia. Some tech upgrades made the visit to the fair even comfier and more enjoyable, while the extensive framework of projects helped to channel the guests’ attention to the most noteworthy things.

In the middle_ ‘Soul piercing, Aura kissing, Mind blowing’. Neon installation by Genda Fluid (Antonine Baever), 2020

Where digital art meets NFTs

Along with the variety of galleries participating, Cosmoscow impressed its visitors with a range of special projects this time. An absolute novelty of the season was a section of NFT art hosted by the Moscow-based fair together with their colleagues from New York, CADAF Crypto and Digital Art Fair. Immersive videos to discover, displayed on flat screens, were presented by some young but already famous Russian artists, the award-winning millennials, such as Maria Agureeva (b. 1985), Ivan Plusch (b. 1981), and Dima Rebus (b. 1988).

From left to right_ NFT-installations by Ivan Plusch and Dima Rebus

Among those who came to stay it’s worth mentioning an Irish tech-savvy, contemporary photographer Kevin Abosch, who pioneered in being on the first-basis with AI and blockchain, and Anne Morgan Spalter, a US digital mixed-media artist with a great academic background. A certain trend of the year, a show of NFTs, has been promised by the Hermitage Museum’s director (St. Petersburg) Mikhail Piotrovsky, while Russian art fairs are gradually catching on to that kind of crypto fashion. The Cosmoscow NFT section was curated by Elena Zavelev of CADAF and Jess Conatser of Studio As We Are, just to note the names. 

NFT art section at Cosmoscow featuring works by Kevin Abosch, Maria Agureeva, Anna Taganzeva-Kobzeva and others

From Moscow with love 

Unless we’re talking about the fairs of young art, some large-scale art events rarely focus on its novice members: while the latter might be presented at the show, a greater emphasis is usually given to the acknowledged maitres. It’s the second time in 2021 that Cosmoscow sabotages the ingrained tradition, making way for the new. The section titled ‘Created in Moscow’ (curated by Alexey Maslyaev) aimed at highlighting works by some emerging Russian artists, who were, in turn, represented by the local city galleries. 

Created in Moscow_ section aims to highlight emerging talents. Curated by Alexey Maslyev

That is not to say, however, that all the gallerists who applied for the section were up-and-comers. Indeed, quite a few freshmen like a-s-t-r-a gallery (since 2018) and ARTZIP (since 2019) seized the opportunity, yet they shared the space together with the residents of some full-blooded art venues, take pop/off/art and JART Gallery, for instance, founded in far 2004 and 2008 respectively. So what’s so special about ‘Created in Moscow’? The thing is, each gallery admitted to the section could demonstrate a work by one of its artists for free. Impressive, isn’t it? Considering the very preliminary cost of Cosmoscow participation, that might amount to a few thousands dollars per booth in the main section.

P. S. Apparently, Cosmoscow adheres to a rather sensible pricing policy as compared with its international colleagues, yet there is no exact, publicly available information about the fees at the fair.

Booth C03, pop_off_art gallery, Moscow. Featuring Vladimir Potapov, _From Inside_ series, 2017

Booth D4, 11.12 Gallery, Moscow. Featuring Rinat Voligamsi, 2020


Since the time it was founded in 2017, Cosmoscow Foundation for Contemporary Art has delighted its audience with a great assortment of projects that primarily aim to support and encourage young artists and noncommercial art institutions by reinforcing their names in public view. That means not only financial support, but also a great help in promotion, including an opportunity to show one’s project at the fair and present oneself at Cosmoscow Talks. It was Irina Korina, Russian installation artist with a theatrical background, who received the main nomination for her tangled work ‘Razzle-Dazzle’ this time.

Installation ‘Razzle-Dazzle’ by Irina Korina, 2021. Courtesy of Cosmoscow_

Irina Korina was named the ‘Artist of the Year’ by Cosmoscow in 2021. Photo_ Sleek Magazine

Just like Korina became the ‘Artist of the Year’, the Vyksa Art Residence (Nizhny Novgorod Region) was named the ‘Institution of the Year’. The same age as Cosmoscow, Vyksa functions as a year-round research platform for culture professionals from the entire country, which has been a great matter of interest of late.

The Vyksa Steel Works, the major factory in the town of Nizhny Novgorod Region, painted by the Russian street artist Misha Most. Courtesy of the Vyksa Art Residence_

Neither did the organizers forget about the museums. It’s not by chance that the Multimedia Art Museum has been acknowledged in 2021: this year MAMM marks the 25th anniversary and does it with great pomp in the space of the fair! Some works by Russian conceptual artists including Sergei Shutov, Valery Chtak, and Andrey Kuzkin have been recently added to the museum’s collection and proudly shown at the display. At the same time Garage MCA, which was honoured as the ‘Museum of the Year’ at Cosmoscow in 2020, turned to their St. Petersburg-based archives, to highlight the practices of performance coming from the northern capital.

The Multimedia Art Museum has added some works by Valery Chtak to their collection for the anniversary

The contemporary art fair had also room for loving memory: specially created for the show at a Japanese university, the work ‘A Night at Shore’ by the late artist Nikita Alexeev, ex-member of the ‘Collective actions’ art-group, was exhibited in Russia for the first time. The no less exciting section ‘Collector Eye’ based on the gems of some private collections featured the artworks by some outstanding Russian non-conformists, including the recently deceased Oleg Tselkov and Oskar Rabin.

Ironic vS Serious_ the ‘Collector Eye’ section was organized thematically this time

Simply incredible 

Cosmoscow goes digital, fortunately, only in part. While we are still able to watch the best from the world of contemporary art live, loading ourselves up with some audio guides produced by the Russian Association of Galleries (often abbreviated as AGA; founded in 2020), the process of purchasing the artworks has been greatly transferred online. Launched by the Cosmoscow team in 2020, the digital TEO platform, which is by the way the biggest Russian marketplace now to sell contemporary art on the web, enables the audience to learn more about the liked work, discover the price, and, actually, purchase the piece. Just get your camera phone ready to scan the QR codes written on the label. In fact, the Cosmoscow online version runs until September 26, so we are still able to speak of it in the present tense and, if desired, support the vibrant Russian contemporary art market… 

Wait, QR codes as a work of art_ Recycle Group says yes

To be continued…