”Art is here to ask questions, not to answer them”

Interview with gallery owner Alena Kurmasheva from Moscow-based Osnova Gallery

Conservatism and isolation are challenging aspects of running a gallery in Russia. However, Moscow-based Osnova Gallery is not afraid to do things differently and push the boundaries as when the vital gallery exhibits the collection of one of the world’s youngest art collectors or embraces the potential of the digitization by interacting with likeminded enthusiasts worldwide. We had a talk with co-owner Alena Kurmasheva about the art of running a gallery in Moscow and the prospect of change in a conservative art world where some politicians try to use art to their advantage while the global community calls for action. It starts with a vision of change, which is exactly what Osnova Gallery cultivates, driven by a will to challenge status quo for the sake of art.

Name: Osnova Gallery
Location: Moscow, Russia
Founded in year: 2014
Upcoming exhibitions: Andrey Bogush and Bogdan Ablozhnyy at Decades show, Yan Ginzburg at Mechanical beetle show

Co-owners of Osnova Gallery Alena Kurmasheva and Dmitriy Vetrov. Photo: Alena Vinokurova for buro247.ru

What is your earliest memory of art and what led you into the business of being a gallerist?
I was working as an assistant at a gallery during my academic studies and since then I have fallen in love with the art world. The art universe differs so much from the realm of my economy graduate friends. It feels amazing to be a part of it and to do something unique. When I met Dima in 2007, we started working together on our own projects, it started with the launch of an online art blog and later on we opened our own gallery.

You represent a diverse group of contemporary artists, primarily with Russian origin. Are they somehow related in their artistic practices?
They definitely are. Together we decide on the artists we want to work with, and it requires constant discussion to make the choice. Even so, our gallery program represents our ideas and taste, and now, after three years, we have developed a well recognizable style and direction.

Osnova Gallery is a young and dynamic art space in a traditionally conservative society. What are the most rewarding and challenging aspects of running a gallery in Moscow?
Running a successful business in Moscow is always challenging, most of the people are highly conservative. In contrast, we simply do what we love and keep in mind that there are likeminded enthusiasts who support our projects.

Artwork by Andrey Bogush
Photo: Alena Vinokurova for buro247.ru

Last year, you displayed the collection of one of the world’s youngest art collectors, a 9-year old girl, signalling that you dare to experiment with new ways of displaying art which some perceive as inappropriate and unconventional. What drives you to challenge the status quo?
Nowadays people tend to take our everyday life extremely serious, and we just wanted to make people smile and stay tuned. Fun fact: at the opening reception we served cotton candy instead of champagne and it gathered together ten times more visitors than usually. The youngest visitors came back to the next opening to see if there were being served candy again, so I guess we got some loyal clients since that party.

How is the gallery scene like in Moscow and in Russia at large?
Our country is very centralized, which also applies to the art scene. All the leading art galleries are located in Moscow and all the major art exhibitions and biennales took place here up until recently. However, in recent years, the situation has started to change, the foundation of the amazing Ural Industrial Biennial of Contemporary Art as well as Zarya art residence in Vladivostok are great examples of local art initiatives that are inspiring and worth to watch.

Photo: Alena Vinokurova for buro247.ru

Who is your main audience, primarily local or international collectors? Do you experience a big difference between the way they enjoy and collect art?
About 70% of our sales these days are made in the local market. Hence we are trying to develop our presence in the international market as it is crucial to introduce our artists to the foreign collectors.

As a gallery based in Moscow, how do you see your role in the global art industry?
On the one hand we do really feel a kind of the isolation, and we have to work harder to be presented in the global art scene, but on the other hand being in Moscow help us keeping our distinctive visuality and approach.

How has digitalization affected the dynamic of your business?
We are living in a digital era, and we love how fast and global it is. Instagram is a real gem – we exchange our visual aesthetics online, and this parallel reality helps us follow like-minded people and stay tuned.

Which role does art plays in today’s society and specifically in Russia?
As one of my artist friends said, art does not owe you anything, and that is true. Art is here to ask questions, not to answer them. And it is deeply frustrating when politicians try to use art to their advantage.

Booth at Code Art Fair.
Co-owners of Osnova Gallery Alena Kurmasheva and Dmitriy Vetrov. Photo: Alena Vinokurova for buro247.ru

Do you believe that art has the potential to change the world? And if so, how?
I truly believe that we all need art in our lives…

Where do you see the art world heading in the future and in which way would you like to make a mark?
Still there, but I am really into the idea of a global community with this Condo and Okey Dokey art initiatives. I sincerely hope it will be moving in this direction.

On October 24, you will open a new show featuring the artists Andrey Bogush and Bogdan Ablozhnyy. Could you tell a bit about what to expect in this show?
We are genuinely pleased to have an opportunity to exhibit this project. The show constitutes a continuation of the research that began at the Sterna Art Residency in Greece with the outputs including such venues as Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki, and The Research Pavilion, Venice. ‘Decades’ show will be a new installment incorporating semi-commercial stands, charcoal wall drawings, vinyl objects, curtains and found imagery.

Osnova Gallery
Website: osnovagallery.com

4th Syromyatnichesky Pereulok 1/6
105120, Moscow, Russia

Contact information
+ 7 926 887 39 87
[email protected]

Opening hours
Tue – Sun, 13:00 – 20:00

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