From Russia with Avant-garde

Yorgos Karouzakis, Eleftherotypia / 11 August 2009 From Russia with Avant-garde

Contemporary art has long moved to the Russian constellation, thanks to the talent of Russian artists and the patrons of art such as Stella Kesaeva, founder of the Stella Art Foundation.

In September the Foundation is bringing forty five works of renowned artists from its collection to Thessaloniki.

“Stella Art”, the famous Russian contemporary art foundation, a rising star in the international art scene and an institution stating as its objective the promotion of new Russian art, its holding its autumn event in Thessaloniki. More than 45 works from the widely renown collection of the institution, headed by Russian citizen Mrs. Stella Kesaeva, will be on show from September 18 to November 11 at the National Bank’s Educational Foundation (Vasilissis Olgas Str. 108). The presented pieces will comprise an exhibition Subjective Visions held under more general title Moscow — Thessaloniki 2009 in the context of the parallel program of the Second Thessaloniki Contemporary Art Biennale. This season, more significant parts of the same collection are also being exhibited at the Viennese Kunsthistorisches Museum and the 53rd Venice Biennale.

Centerpiece of the exhibition at the National Bank’s Educational Foundation will also be a portrait of Stella Kesaeva, the Foundation’s president, painted by Alex Kats, representative of the New York Pop Art. This “virtual” presence of Stella Kesaeva among the works on show will allow her to play a role of the “lady of the house” taking her guests on a tour of her collection. The exhibition features some celebrities of international art, as well as Russian artists whose oeuvre is widely known beyond the country’s borders, including the reputed conceptualist Igor Makarevich, who, in collaboration with his partner Elena Yelagina, works in a variety of media: collage, photography, painting, graphics, book installation, etc. The Thessaloniki exhibition will present a series of his portraits recording a process of his gradual mummification.

The exhibition will also feature a fragment of a text of the “progenitor” of conceptual art Joseph Kosuth, kitsch photographs, golden figurines crafted by Oleg Kulik, the enfant terrible of the Russian art who became notorious for his “actions”, in which he acted as a dog in order to... better comprehend the nature of a beast. Besides, the viewers will see some artwork from already familiar hands — mostly thanks to exhibitions already held at the National Contemporary Art Museum — such as Ilya and Emilia and Kabakov, with their graphics and video art created for a theatrical production of Olivier Messiaen’s opera Saint Francis of Assisi.

Viewers will be able to see inimitable works by provocative American photographic artist Robert Mapplethorpe and photographs by New Yorker Spencer Tunick who became notorious for his mass photo shootings of naked people, works by Russian authors Nikita Alexeyev, Alexander Glinitsky, Dmitry Gutov and others. By arranging the artwork she received at her disposal, exhibition curator Thalea Stefanidou attempted to answer the following questions: How is an art work structured? How is a collection ‘built’? How is the content of a collection restructured in relation to new spaces of its reception?"

The program of the Moscow-Thessaloniki 2009 exhibition will be supplemented with various events to be announced later. The Subjective Visions project is conducted by Stella Art Foundation in collaboration with the National Bank’s Educational Foundation, artBOX.gr and Thessaloniki Contemporary Art Biennale.

The non-commercial Stella Art Foundation was founded in November 2004 at the initiative of Stella Kesaeva. One of the Foundation’s objectives is to institute a super-modern museum to house its rich collection within the following ten years.