Mikhail Krokin: "Heydar Aliyev Foundation does right things"
The new economic situation in Russia, which arose in the late 80s, has created opportunities for the emergence of new compellations of art treasures. Experts say that in Soviet times, permanent and temporary fine art exhibitions were held in museums, and exhibition activities were controlled by internal authorities and councils under the Union of Artists. Mikhail Krocin, a native of Baku, founder of Krokin Gallery, told Vestnik Kavkaza about the development of art gallery business in modern Russia.
- What level of gallery business exists in Russia? How is art gallery business developing in Russia now? What is the difference between it and Western countries?
- There are entire cities in Europe that are interested in attracting artists. The city authorities allocate districts and microdistricts, where artists are provided almost free workshops, where they are given the opportunity to create. Artists come from all over the world, receive grants and work. This is the right approach, because artists have no money for it. Galleries live off the land as well. If art works are sold, then a gallery has money, and if they are not sold, then a gallery has no money. Therefore, it would be nice to help galleries somehow. This is the task of the Ministry of Culture. I believe that if a gallery travels with an exhibition, presenting a collection of contemporary artworks at a contemporary art fair, let's say FIAC in Paris, then the gallery is the ambassador of Russia's cultural program. This is the best advertisement, a message about what talented artists our country has got, which means that the gallery could be helped. Today it turns out that nobody needs galleries.
- Are you waiting for financial support?
- I do not even dream about helping us financially, with some grants, I'm talking about settling galleries somewhere within the city, in a decent place with people walking, visiting exhibition spaces and attending exhibitions. It is impossible to find such a premise, because it costs an arm and a leg . It would be great if the city allocates a certain area in the pedestrian zone of Moscow,visited by tourists.
And now it turns out that we have a cluster of galleries on Winzavod only. Where would you find central galleries without it? They are all in basements, in attics. We are becoming underground because we try to save money that we need to organize our next exhibitions.
If an exhibition sells some art works, then the artist's fee is partially paid, and partially the money goes to the development of next exhibitions of next artists. If we are not given the opportunity to exhibit or the opportunity to work, then accordingly we are not able to help artists, artists do not earn enough money, respectively, they leave the profession. We lose a lot of talented guys.
We do not engage in commercial exhibitions, we are engaged in art exhibitions, and the commercial theme is number two here. This includes the situation on the market - the number of collectors, their desire to buy, in general the desire of someone to buy works of art. Today, it is difficult for galleries to survive.
- As a Baku native, how would you characterize the situation with art in Azerbaijan, for example, or in the Caucasus in general?
- The foundations working there help artists to travel abroad, give them an opportunity to become famous outside the limited contour. Artists from Baku are very local, they live in a world of their own, in their own experiences. It is immediately evident that this artist is from the south, and this one is from Central Asia. A lot of color, forms, lines, themes on their canvases- all this is noticeable. It's important to travel abroad in order to stop being a local artist, but to become an international artist. But it requires sponsors, grants, trips, participation in biennales and triennales, a large number of galleries that would do this. These are the ants that create an anthill, which can be seen from afar, which cannot be missed. I know several funds, including the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, which do right things. They exhibit artists. It is important.
- You specialize in experimental art. Is contemporary art in demand today?
- It is always in demand. I do not know any man who would not want to visit an exhibition in the Tretyakov Gallery, the Pushkin Museum or the Museum of the East. But either there is not enough time, or there is not enough information, or there is no mood for this. It is important that people were in the mood for visiting exhibitions, and then they were in the mood for making themselves or their friends a present, buying works of art, hanging them on the wall.
Every person wants to join the reality, leave a small trace of the present era in his environment, his apartment, among his things. Therefore, everyone is ready to buy. The question is how much. A tourist in the Arbat area is ready to spend $50 to buy a pink fur ear hat. A tourist who has $100 will go to Izmaylovsky Park and buy a set of lacquered matryoshka dolls. A tourist who has $1000 will go to a gallery, looking for something interesting to hang it and say that this is a future great artist.
10 years ago no one knew any Chinese artists, although many of them were presented at international exhibitions. But suddenly we have a dozen stunning Chinese artists. Today, their works are worth millions.
Our people have a desire to visit exhibitions. The audience is artsy, well-read, attends the theatre, but the way from "I like this picture" to buying it sometimes takes a month, sometimes three months, sometimes years. Our art market very clearly feels the economic situation in the country. We see this according to the number of collectors, according to the number of visitors. There is a direct correlation.
- What is the task of contemporary art? Does it send some social or political message?
- Both social and political . It makes people think. And the opening day allows any person to walk up to the artist and ask him: "What do you mean by that? We are interested in your view, we are interested in your position on this issue". This opportunity is given by contemporary art. It's like theater, songs or symphony orchestra with a new interpretation of performance. We are forced to think, we are forced to reflect, we are forced to continue the line proposed for discussion. It should touch a raw nerve and shake.