Personal Choice: Garage Center for Contemporary Culture, Moscow

Personal Choice: Collectors’ selections from their own collections is Moscow-based Garage Center for Contemporary Culture’s exhibition about the collector of high end contemporary art who is Russian. While the exhibition is about the construction of the contemporary medium of Russian art collecting, it is also necessarily about the influence of international art collecting standards. While many of the artists in the exhibition are Russian, many are not, and those who are often work or worked outside of Russia.

The objects are each emblematic of specific collections of particular Russian art collectors, who strictly collect alone or in partnership contemporary works, or who have established a collection in which contemporary works have a significant pride of place. Each chosen collector or collector-partnership submitted one work or unified group of works to act as a spokes piece for their highly personal brand of collecting. While the exhibition as a whole is an eclectic oeuvre of almost exclusively male artists, the collectors themselves are a well integrated mix of women and men.

What comes through in the exhibition is a particular modality of rigour and intellectual curiousity that could be distinctly Russian – a blend of analytical exactness and theoretical precision melded with a healthy dosage of submission to a personal avant-garde and appreciation of the sublime and subliminal. Almost all of the collectors’ personal exhibition statements tell an intimate story involving chance and coincidence as well as an intentional desire on the part of the collector to allow him- or herself to be influenced by the unknown through art and artists.

The international works in the show, aside from the quality of their formal properties, all share a certain stature as far as official receptivity in the established western art world is concerned. As such, Personal Choice displays Russian collectors as connoisseurs of excellent and approved of tastes. American icons Andy Warhol, Alexander Calder and Sam Durant are represented, as well as Brazilian artist Jac Leirner’s Little Light 4, a strikingly simple complexity of copper, glass and plastics. Alexander Zhukov shared from his holdings German photographer Andreas Gursky,’s architectural C-print Charles de Gualle / Paris. Russian art on view includes Semyon Faibisovich’s The Poet Lev Rubinstein (from the Moscow Metro in the Name of Lenin series), Oleg Tselkov’s Five Faces, Mikhail Shvartsman’s Untitled #9 and Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid’s Natasha with Bust of Stalin. The Russian visual language proves virtuosity in tech-nique, a quest for the spiritual and a grand capacity for irony.

A primary goal of Personal Choice is to assess, support and develop the contemporary art market in Russia and many collectors note this drive in their collecting style. Founder of contemporary art museum ART4.RU Igor Markin notes that he now trusts his own art taste and knowledge sufficiently to actively take risks and purchase the art of up-and-coming, but not yet formally established, artists. Margarita Pushkina drives her collection by familiarizing herself thoroughly with artists and works she does not know and then allowing her new understanding to guide her acquisitional play. Behind the serious endeavors of the Russian collector in Personal Choice is the on-going spirit of the adventurer and aesthete.

Personal Choice: Collectors’ selections from their own collections, until 6 April, Garage Center for Contemporary Culture, 9/45 Krymsky Val st., 119049, Moscow, Russia. F0r more information visit

Odette Gregory

1. Oleg Kulik Cosmonaut (from the Museum installation), 2003. Collection of Ekaterina and Vladimir Semenikhin. Photography: Ilya Ivanov © Garage Center for Contemporary Culture.