Culture of oppression: Moscow gallery forced to close after benefit for political prisoners

The Marat Guelman Gallery, a nexus of the Moscow art scene since before the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, has been evicted following an October 18th art auction to benefit twelve anti-Putin protesters imprisoned since 2012.

Gallery owner and director Marat Guelman says he was served eviction papers on Oct. 20th by the the owners of the Vinzavod (winery) Art Center, which houses the gallery. The eviction cited past-due rent; Guelman disputes this. He told the Moscow Times “There weren’t any [debts], and my accountant informed them of that.” The art space management company then asked Guelman to sign an agreement to not host any more political events, which he did. Nevertheless, the company quickly reneged and ordered the gallery out of the space.

“I wrote it and signed it. … An hour later they replied: ‘Vacate the premises by Nov. 5,’” Guelman posted to social media.

We reached out to friend of the Deconstruction and frequent correspondent, artist Petro Wodkins, for his reaction. He responded by email to let us know he’s not currently in Moscow but was aware of these events. “Marat Guelman is a great man and one of the central figures in the Russian art scene,” Petro writes. He said that the Vinzavod “lost much more than gained” by evicting Guelman. Still, Wodkins doesn’t seem to want to condemn them, saying that displays of loyalty to the state  are “the only way to stay in business, even if it’s art-connected business.”

Petro Wodkins has relayed to us before some grim insights on contemporary Russia. He expanded on that in light of these events: “Businesses are not confident in their future and don’t want to be even close to anything beyond mainstream vision. It’s not about art or freedom. It’s about showing loyalty.” It is, he said, a matter of survival.

The Deconstruction joins Petro Wodkins in wishing best of luck and a quick rebound to Marat Guelman, and indeed to all artists, writers, and creators working under conditions of political oppression. Hang in there, friends—art always trumps thuggery in the end, and you’re already doing everything you need to do to bring those punks down.

About editor, facilitator, decider

Doesn't know much about culture, but knows when it's going to hell in a handbasket.
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