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Cosmoscow 2021: Back with a Bang

Updated: Sep 29, 2021

by Elena Rubinova

Cosmoscow 2021 is Back with a Bang, Reporting Good Sales

Photos courtesy of Cosmoscow press-service

Cosmoscow, Russia’s leading international contemporary art fair, traditionally taking place in early September, has long become the key date of the art calendar but its ninth edition was unusual. It was back with a bang. As the pandemic rumbles on, the event was relocated and postponed for a week, creating challenges for international galleries. A week before the initial dates, the fair organizers received a short notice that the previous space - Gostiny Dvor, an 18th century merchant hall, would still be needed in the fight against Covid-19 as one of the largest vaccination centres. Surprisingly, despite the unexpected circumstances, none of the galleries cancelled their participation, even those from as far away as Argentina, and people and works arrived in Moscow on time.

Eventually, the fair took place between 18 and 20 September at the Central Manege in the heart of Moscow, next to the Kremlin walls. The 9th edition was truly global with 82 galleries from 13 countries presenting works of approximately 350 artists. Now, when the offline fair is over, many participants admitted that the new venue with two levels worked even better for sales and the prestige of the event.

Simon Rees, the Cosmoscow Artist Director since 2019, speaking to artamour, noted that many of the international trends in the art industry are obvious at the fair. “Brand awareness is applicable now here in the same way as in most other countries. At the beginning of their relationship with partners and sponsors many of them simply gave money to the fair while now they actually commission artistic projects and support art residences. Their client base wants a taste of champagne and a taste of art”, he said. Also the architectural concept of the fair goes along with the environmental challenges – to minimize construction debris and other kind of waste plastic folding boxes were used as the main element for creating key zones.

Exclusive Interview with Simon Rees, Cosmoscow Art Director since 2019 (in English)

Exclusive Interview with Simon Rees, Cosmoscow Art Director since 2019 (in English)

Works by Anya Zholud at the PA Gallery stand

Foreign participants (Art Agency, Temnikova & Kasela, Peres Projects, Studiocur/art and others including Pearl Lam Gallery from Hong Kong, a driving force within Asia’s contemporary art scene, formed a separate section. Last year, Pearl Lam already stepped on the Russian soil helping to organize Zhang Huan's solo show at the Hermitage.

Exclusive interview with Alena Ivanova, Director in Russia

for Pearl Lam Galleries Hong Kong - Shanghai (in English)

Exclusive interview with Alena Ivanova, Director in Russia

for Pearl Lam Galleries Hong Kong - Shanghai (in English)

"It is our first time at the fair here and we decided to start our way in Russia by creating a network with museums, institutions and collectors. It was logical to bring Zhang Huan to the collector's eye. We made his work the focal point of our presence at Cosmoscow, because the audience already has understanding who Zhang Huan is and feel comfortable with this. Russia has a lot of emerging artists but by bringing in international names we would like to broaden minds of the local audience. Our artists have been exhibited internationally, so now it creates an opportunity for Russian collectors to see them here", says Alyona Ivanova, the Russian director of the gallery speaking to Artamour’s own correspondent. One of Huang's works available for purchase for $210,000 (the top lot of the fair) was sold on the first day.

My Winter Palace, by Zhang Huan

(Photo courtesy of Pearl Lam Galleries and Zhang Huan Studios)

Another successful first-timer was Zeller van Almsick Gallery from Vienna with the stunning op-art pieces by Australian artist Jonny Niesche. The trick with the works is that the colours are applied to the canvas at high temperature and so fused that it is impossible to guess the boundary after which one colour changes to another. In the short interview for artamour, Cornelius Van Almsick, as the former architect who first visited Russia with Zaha Hadid in 2005, mentioned his long-lasting appreciation of the Russian Constructivism and high expectations of the fair. He did not have to wait long: the small format pieces went for €10,000 a piece on the fly at the preview for collectors and VIP guests.

Exclusive interview with Cornelius Van Almsick, Zeller Van Almsick Gallery (in English)

Elena Rubinova and Cornelius Van Almsick

Works by Jonny Niesche, Zeller van Almsick Gallery

The significant presence of galleries from the Russian regions is also noteworthy – and not only from St Petersburg. The galleries from the cultural capital of Russia - Marina Gisich Gallery, Anna Nova Gallery, Myth Gallery and Name Gallery, formed an alliance and presented another "block of booths" on the first floor. Marina Gisich showcased the monumental works by Dimitri Gretzky and Evgenia Katz (at least two of the three panels made of fence netting went for over €20,000). Anna Nova Gallery exhibited paintings by Andrey Kuzkin, the artist previously known mostly for his performances and actions.

As if to prove that contemporary ceramic art is making a great revival in the world of fine arts, the display included some of Mayana Nasybullova’s sculptural objects and installations from the series “Body Experience”. According to Anna Barinova, the gallery owner, some pieces were sold out on the very first day.

Exclusive talk and guided walk with Anna Nova Gallery owner Anna Barinova (in Russian)

Exclusive talk and guided walk with Anna Nova Gallery owner Anna Barinova (in Russian)

Mayana Nasybullova’s sculptural objects and installations

Mayana Nasybullova’s sculptural objects and installations

St Petersburg Neo-Academism was represented at the stand of Nikolay Evdokimov Gallery, another first-timer at Cosmoscow, reporting successful sales of the works by Andrey Pomulev and photographer Dmitry Sirotkin.

Exclusive interview with Nikolay Evdokimov, Owner of Nikolay Evdokimov Gallery (in Russian)

Hercules and Hydra, by A. Pomulev, 2021

Nikolay Evdokimov and the art works

On the whole, Cosmoscow 2021, like any fair, has become a patchwork. where works by acknowledged masters and big names hunted by collectors are next to young artists. The latter, as a rule, find their way to this renowned art venue thanks to the support of contemporary art foundations. This season's debutants were presented at the Created in Moscow stand curated by Alexey Maslyaev, Cosmoscow Foundation.

Alina Krykova, Gallery owner and Founder of ASTRA Gallery, Moscow in an exclusive interview with Elena Rubinova about the new type of collectors (in English)

For the second time in a row Cosmoscow was held in a ‘hybrid format’: in addition to the main live event, the fair is available online via the platform TEO, launched by the fair team in 2020. TEO is the largest online marketplace for contemporary art in Russia appealing to the young audience and capitalizing on an influx of new collectors who have found the online world more accessible than old-style art buying. The online version of the fair also has a longer duration than the event at Central Manege and will be open to a wider audience until September 26.

Special correspondent Elena Rubinova for artamour at Cosmoscow 2021

(All photos and videos are courtesy of Elena Rubinova unless mentioned otherwise.)


Elena Rubinova is a Moscow-based art journalist working across media, professional philologist, teacher, and translator. She started her career as an English language teacher before joining ABC News as a translator and producer. She has produced documentaries for BBC, National Geographic, Arte, Discovery Channel to name a few, including the three-part series The Art of Russia (BBC2, 2009). She has been a regular contributing writer for Russian magazines and on-line media such as ArtandYou, Artguide, Dialogue of Arts, International Life, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Russia Profile, Passport Moscow.

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