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Russian billionaire’s new Venice gallery to open with show of Soviet and contemporary art

Inaugural exhibition will include work by Rodchenko, Tillmans and a new Barbara Kruger commission

by Gareth Harris  |  13 February 2017
Russian billionaire’s new Venice gallery to open with show of Soviet and contemporary art
Wolfgang Tillmans's The State We're In, A (2015) (Courtesy of David Zwirner, New York, Galerie Buchholz, Cologne/Berlin, and Maureen Paley, London)
The leading US artist Barbara Kruger will unveil a major new work in the inaugural exhibition organised by the V-A-C Foundation at its new gallery in Venice this summer. Kruger’s work will be the centrepiece of the exhibition Space Force Construction (13 May-25 August) taking place in the 19th-century Palazzo delle Zattere. The installation, which will cover the floor and walls of the building’s second floor, is described in a project statement as “an image of a hand holding out an iPhone with apps that show declarative virtues and vices in Russian, English and Italian”.

The Moscow-based V-A-C foundation, which was established in 2009 by the Russian gas billionaire Leonid Mikhelson, has organised annual exhibitions in Venice since 2010. It has teamed up with curators at the Art Institute of Chicago for the launch show which lifts the lid on early 20th-century Soviet art, marking the centenary of the 1917 Russian Revolution (another version of the exhibition, titled Revoliutsiia! Demonstratsiia! Soviet Art Put to the Test, will be shown in Chicago, 29 October-14 January 2018).

Sculptures and objects by key Soviet practitioners of the 1920s and 1930s such as El Lissitzky and Varvara Stepanova will be shown in Venice alongside pieces by contemporary artists such as Irina Korina, Wolfgang Tillmans and Janice Kerbel.

Alexander Rodchenko’s Workers Club, a ten-metre long piece outlining a collective leisure space including a Lenin Corner dedicated to the Communist revolutionary, will also go on show. The geometric designs, first shown in Paris in 1925, will be used as a springboard by the London-based artist Christian Nyampeta for a debate in the opening weeks.

Main Entrance of the V-A-C Foundation's new gallery in the Palazzo Delle Zattere, Venice (Image: © apml Architects)
Mikhelson’s V-A-C Foundation has taken a lease on the waterfront Palazzo delle Zattere, which overlooks the Canale della Giudecca. The building, which is being converted by the Venetian architect Alessandro Pedron, covers 2,000 sq. m over four levels—half of which will be dedicated exhibition space.

A spokeswoman says: “The new Venetian headquarters will continue V-A-C’s mission of working with emerging Russian artists and placing them in dialogue with artists from all over the world”. There will be three temporary exhibitions a year—one major exhibition organised to coincide with the biennale and two further exhibitions—as well as artists and curator residency programmes.

The foundation, a sponsor of the Venice Biennale, is also due to inaugurate a contemporary art centre, called GES2, in a former power station in 2019 in Moscow’s Red October district. Mikhelson has commissioned the Italian architect Renzo Piano to redevelop the two-hectare site.   

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