A Russian take on the Venice Biennale

Boris Ignatovich. Atlants. 1931. Courtesy of the artist and the Russian Pavilion at the 58th Venice Biennale

Russia’s presence at the world’s biggest carnival of creativity is not to be overlooked. We’ve picked 10 projects worth attending, ranging from the Russian pavilion in Giardini down to street performances.

“Luke. 15:11-32”

Control of this year’s show in the Russian pavilion has been handed to St. Petersburg’s State Hermitage and it will be curated by the museum’s director, Mikhail Piotrovsky. The New Testament reference points to the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Installations on the subject will be created by film director Alexander Sokurov and artist and stage designer Alexander Shishkin-Hokusai. Fans of the Hermitage, be warned: no exhibits from the museum itself will be on view. 

11 May – 24 November

Giardini, Venice

There is a beginning in the end. Tintoretto's secret fraternity

The Pushkin museum pays homage to Jacopo Tintroretto in an ambitious multimedia project staged in the newly restored San-Fantin church opposite the La Fenice opera house. Site-specific installations by Russian conceptual artist Irina Nakhova, theatre director Dmitry Krymov and American media artist Gary Hill will be juxtaposed with the painting of the Italian modernist Emilio Vedova. The intervention of the Swiss art group “!Mediengruppe Bitnik” will add drama to the show, which is curated by the museum’s director Marina Loshak and the head of its New Media department Olga Shishko. The project is part of the Biennale’s Parallel Programme.

11 May – 11 September

San-Fantin Church, San Marco, Venice

Time, Forward!

Moscow’s V-A-C foundation promotes young Russian artists by putting their work into an international context. The exhibition at the foundation’s permanent venue in Venice is no exception. It will be dedicated to the perception of time in today’s society. The show will consist of 14 multimedia installations by artists from different countries. Among them there are several Russians: the Ekaterinburg art group “Кудабегутсобаки” (“Where dogs run”), Alexandra Sukhareva, Daria Irincheeva, Kirill Savchenkov and Valentin Fetissov.

11 May – 24 November

V–A–C Zattere, Dorsoduro 1401, Venice

Transcorded structures – before and after media in abstraction

This show is officially (and confusingly) described as an “Independent international project run by the International Institution for Museum and Gallery Activities - OSTEN Skopje, North Macedonia.” To put it simply, it is the unofficial pavilion of North Macedonia, not to be confused with the real national exhibition of the Republic of North Macedonia, which will occupy Palazzo Rota Ivanchich in Castello. The show is staged as a visual dialogue between the North Macedonian artist Mice Jankulovsky (b. 1954) and Russian Olga Tobreluts (b.1970), one of the founding members of St. Petersburg’s “New Art Academy.” Both reflect on the challenges of painting as a medium in the digital era in general and on the treatment of light in painting in particular.

8 May - 11 June

Palazzo Ca’ Zanardi, Cannaregio 4133, Venice

New steppe

Paintings and sculptures by Zorikto Dorzhiev, an artist from Buryatia, a remote Far Eastern province of Russia, stand as far away from the contemporary art mainstream, as his homeland is from Venice. The exhibition, located inside an Anglican church, will be designed as stables for four horses, thus recalling Napoleon’s decision to turn the Kremlin’s much-revered Uspensky cathedral into his army’s stables during the French occupation of Moscow in 1812. Admire the provocation or shrug it off as poorly disguised ethnic kitsch, the choice is yours. The show is organized by Moscow’s Khankhalaev gallery which has long represented this artist.  

6 May – 1 November

St. George's Anglican Church, Dorsoduro 720, Venice

Gely Korzhev. Back to Venice

The exhibition showcases the oeuvre of Gely Korzhev (1925-2012). This artist was one of the founders of the so-called “austere style” in Soviet painting of the early 1960s. In the Post-Soviet era his style evolved into brutal surrealism: Korzhev’s late paintings are grim and unsettling, teeming with monstrous creatures which populate realistically-rendered interiors. The exhibition’s title alludes to the little-known fact that the works of Korzhev were shown, along those of other artists, in the USSR’s pavilion during the XXXI Biennale in Venice in 1962. The exhibition is organized by the State Tretyakov Gallery in collaboration with another Moscow museum, the private Institute of Russian Realistic Art, as well as the Centre for the Studies of Russian Art (CSAR) of Venice’s Ca’ Foscari university.

11 May – 31 October

Ca’ Foscari Esposizioni, Dorsoduro 3246, Venice

Faced2Faced project

A series of immersive performances will be open for everyone to join. All you have to do is download an augmented-reality app called FACED2FACED, developed by the Russian digital artist Natalia Alfutova with the support of Moscow’s SDV Arts&Science Foundation. The app generates your own avatar based on your profiles on social networks. It takes the shape of an extra head “growing” on your palm and visible through your phone’s camera. Users will be able to hold meaningful conversations with their avatars, the artist promises. The first “victim” of the experiment will be Dmitry Volkov, a Russian millionaire, IT geek, philanthropist, philosopher and founder of the SDV Arts&Science Foundation. The performance will take place at different locations in Venice. Join the fun and face your digital self, if you dare!

Ca’ Foscari University Courtyard, Venice

9 May, 4 p.m.

Various locations

8 – 11 May

ID. Art:Tech exhibition (part of Cyfest-12, the International media art festival)

The show is dedicated to the phenomenon of ID, used both as a term in psychoanalysis and as a commonplace personal document and it will be heavily focused on new media. Digital artworks, videos and installations created by artists from the U.S.A., Europe and Russia, including Andrey Bartenev, Pyotr Belyi, Liudmila Belova, Anna Frants and others will be on show. They will be complemented by paintings and graphics created by such classics of Soviet underground art as Erik Bulatov, Oleg Vassiliev and Vagrich Bakhchanyan. The works on show come from two private collections. The event is organized by St.Petersburg’s CYLAND media art laboratory in collaboration with Centre for the Studies of Russian Art (CSAR) of Venice’s Ca’ Foscari university.

11 May — 28 June

Ca’ Foscari Zattere Cultural Flow Zone

Zattere, Dorsoduro 1392, Venice

Mikhail Baryshnikov: looking for the dance

The legendary Russian ballet dancer-turned-photographer, who was born in Riga in 1948 and fled to the West during an American tour of the Bolshoi troupe in 1974, is showing his new series of works. As always, Baryshnikov’s photo project is dedicated to dancing and dancers: this time he explores the traditions of the Odissi dances in Southern India and the sensual world of Argentinian tango. 

6 May – 24 November

Galleria d’Arte Contini

Calle Larga XXII Marzo, San Marco 2414, Venice

Russian International

The round table dedicated to the contemporary Russian art in a global context organized by the Cosmoscow art fair, the Moscow Museum of Modern Art, the Urals Industrial Biennale and Russia’s National Centre for Contemporary Art, will be moderated by the Editor-in-Chief of Russian Art Focus, Richard Wallis. The round table, supported by The Vladimir Potanin Foundation and SIBUR, will be followed by a cocktail reception and a performance by Russian artist. Join in and share your thoughts!

9 May, 12 pm – 5 pm

Ca' Foscari University, Giardino Ca' Dolfin, Dorsoduro 3825/e, Venice

Details to be announced here

Sign up to receive our regular newsletter

Related Articles


Sign up for our newsletter