Exhibitions Museums Russian Federation

Moscow’s Jewish Museum brings contemporary art back into former bus depot

The museum that took over Dasha Zhukova’s former Garage art space hopes to draw in younger visitors but will retain a focus on Jewish history

A work from the exhibition "Foreigners Everywhere"

Moscow’s Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center has introduced contemporary art into its programming in a bid to broaden its audience. The museum opened in November last year in the landmark Constructivist building that previously housed Dasha Zhukova’s popular art space, the Garage Center for Contemporary Culture.

“Foreigners Everywhere”, the museum’s first major contemporary art show (until 4 November) features works from the collection of the Vienna-based financier Eduard Pomeranz, who was born in Odessa, and his wife, Jana. It includes photographs of performances by Marina Abramovic and Ulay, an untitled installation by Joseph Beuys and Taryn Simon’s photography, such as Poolside, Tel Aviv Mini Israel, Latrun, Israel, 2007.

“This is an important venue for contemporary art in Moscow,” says Joseph Backstein, the commissioner of Moscow’s Fifth Biennale of Contemporary Art, who has been serving as an adviser to the museum. Backstein says the Jewish Museum is planning a very serious art programme but that it also benefits from a “magical building” that “attracts everyone”. The former Bakhmetevsky bus depot was in dire condition before Zhukova, the partner of the billionaire Roman Abramovich, oversaw its restoration into the Garage Center. The interior was redesigned for the Jewish Museum by the New York architectural firm Ralph Appelbaum Associates after the Garage moved to Gorky Park in 2012.

Alexander Boroda, the president of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, which runs the museum, says that showing contemporary art will draw in new viewers, especially young people, as well as expand the audience for contemporary art.

The museum’s main display, however, will remain focused on Jewish history, particularly the tsarist and Soviet eras in Russia. On 4 October, it opens an exhibition of rare photos taken at Moscow’s Choral Synagogue in the 1950s and 60s by Emmanuil Evzerikhin, a prominent news photographer who composed the shots in the Soviet avant-garde style. The pictures are from the Liechtenstein-based Sepherot Foundation.

Boroda would not reveal details on future art exhibitions, but says that they would include top names such as Andy Warhol and would not be limited to Jewish themes, nor would art be shown “indiscriminately”. The contemporary art exhibitions, he says, will be united by a philosophical bent.

“We see that [contemporary art] is very much in demand, and we also want to be in demand in those spheres that are interesting to contemporary people,” he says, but insists that the museum is not the heir of Zhukova’s gallery.

“The Garage Center for Contemporary Culture has moved, and their entire ideology has moved as well,” he says. “But the building, the architecture of Konstantin Melnikov and Vladimir Shukhov, has an energy that is conducive to contemporary art.”

The Weeping Wall Inside Us All, 2009, by the art collective Claire Fontaine
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