The Art Newspaper Russia’s 12th Award Ceremony Took Place in Moscow

Performance dedicated to the winner in the nomination 'Restoration of the Year'- the team that worked on the restoration of the Moscow Palace of Pioneers. Photo: Dmitry Chuntul/Anna Temerina/Natalia Polskaya/Irina Polyarnaya

Last week in Moscow, on the brink of the Russian presidential elections, set in the grand interiors of the A.S. Pushkin Theatre, the XIIth Art Newspaper Russia Award was the perfect opportunity to show off the nation’s greatest artistic achievements. Yet behind the glamour lies a narrative not just of innovation but of perseverance in Russia’s cultural landscape.

The PERMM Museum of Contemporary Art, which from the beginning has always had an air of radicalism, today under the extremely capable directorship of Naila Allakhverdieva, continues to challenge conventions and it was awarded the prestigious accolade of ‘Museum of the Year’. Celebrating its fifteenth anniversary, PERMM has always pioneered open dialogues with its audience and urban environment, leading the field as one of Russia’s most dynamic institutions leveraging the power of contemporary art to engage and inspire the public at large. It has recently moved into a new dedicated building, a converted car dealership, which has allowed it to continue its programming on a larger scale.

Restoration of the iconic Young Pioneer Palace on Moscow’s famous Sparrow Hills won the coveted ‘Restoration of the Year’ award. This newly renovated palace has retained its original purpose as a centre for sports and cultural activities for young people. A testament to Soviet architectural modernism, this landmark renovation project has breathed new life into a cultural relic, hopefully preserving its legacy for generations to come. Meanwhile, ‘Russian Emigré Artists in America’, edited by American academic John Bowlt, earned the title of ‘Book of the Year’, shedding light on the diasporic journeys of Russian artists and their enduring impact on global culture. Through captivating narratives, the authors of the essays illuminate the stories of ten pioneering figures who bridge geographical and temporal divides.

In St. Petersburg an exhibition which took place last Spring at the Central Exhibition Hall called ‘First Position: Russian Ballet’ hypnotized audiences with its immersive exploration of Russia’s balletic heritage. The brainchild of Agnia Sterligova and Anna Yalova, and curated by Pavel Kaplevich, this exhibition walked audiences through the evolution of ballet from the Russian imperial court to the Soviet stage, earning plaudits as a cultural landmark. This show was the winner of the ‘Exhibition of the Year’, an honour which is usually given to visual art exhibitions. Finally, the Personal Contribution Award this year was presented to Roman and Sofia Trotsenko for their transformative impact on Moscow’s contemporary art scene, specifically for shaping Vinzavod Contemporary Art Centre into a beacon of creativity and progress in the arts.

However, amidst these triumphs, challenges loom large in the background, casting a shadow over Russia’s artistic community, many finding it hard to reconcile a celebratory mood with concern over the wellbeing of colleagues in the field because last week, there were reports of police raids targeting artists, activists and cultural workers across the whole country, including Naila Allakhverdieva herself. It underscored the extreme fragility of artistic freedom in Russia today. Just two days before the award ceremony, the police carried out searches in the homes of artists and their relatives in various cities across Russia – media reports indicated there were at least fourteen searches in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod, and Perm. Those subjected to the searches were questioned and had their phones and computers confiscated before being released. Among them were well-known artists Anatoly Osmolovsky (b.1969), Katrin Nenasheva (b.1994), and Artem Filatov (b.1991). It appeared that most of those who were questioned were considered to be witnesses in connection with the criminal case of Pussy Riot producer Pyotr Verzilov (b.1987), who has been accused of high treason.

The Art Newspaper Russia

The Art Newspaper Russia’s website

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