The experimental exhibition “Tretyakov: An Other Edition” takes place at Moscow’s New Tretyakov Gallery until August 26, offering an alternative perspective on one of Russia’s most important museums and its 20th century art collection. The project is a joint effort between the Tretyakov Gallery and the Advanced Urban Design (AUD) Master’s program (Strelka Institute / HSE Graduate School of Urbanism). AUD alumna Emily Radosavljevic, who took part in the project, explains how and why young urban designers intervened into the prominent museum space.
Through a series of selective ‘edits’ in the museum environment, the exhibition-experiment “Tretyakov: An Other Edition” invites visitors to reinvestigate the art gallery as an urban environment of sorts – a microcosm of a city enacted in collective memory, shared narratives, daily routines, and historical imagination. The exhibition offers a supplemental lens for viewing the New Tretyakov as it examines the museum space through the eyes of an urbanist, using the milieu of the museum environment to illustrate and experiment with urban principles and practices in another setting.
The project team brought together specialists working at the Tretyakov Gallery and young urban designers from Russia, Sweden, Latvia, and the United States.
Consisting of several interventions, the Tretyakov space is temporarily remade – as the conventional museum experience moves out of ‘default’ mode and provides an alternate mode of usage. For the exhibition, the exterior colonnade has been remade with six new columns which present a conceptual toolkit of editing fundamentals for urban practice, while also emphasizing the museum’s modernist architecture.
The alternative option continues inside the New Tretyakov in “An Other Route” – a curated pathway of selected artwork in the permanent collection which composes a new layer of urban narratives and perspectives. Through spatial interventions in the permanent gallery complemented with the reflections of prominent guest commentators – including poets, artists, philosophers, historians, designers, and critics such as architectural historian Vladimir Paperny, fashion designer Gosha Rubchinskiy, and screenwriter and director Marina Razbezhkina – the pathway composes a second narrative trajectory nested within the established one which illustrates the urban paradox of the 20th century. Fashion historian Alexandre Vassiliev, poet Lev Rubinstein, artist Pavel Pepperstein, photographer Yuri Palmin, architecture critic Grigory Revzin, and Tretyakov Gallery director Zelfira Tregulova are also among the contributors.
Revealing new angles and perspectives of interpretations of familiar artwork, “An Other Route” is an exhibition within an exhibition. Commenting on Alexander Deineka’s “Goalkeeper,” Gosha Rubchinskiy remarks: “I see here a reference to Marc Chagall’s 1918 work, “Over the Town.” There, too, the figures are depicted in flight and are central to the painting’s composition. The couple is suspended in tender, helpless euphoria, we see their distant expressions, full of admiration for each other in anticipation of a new era. The goalkeeper’s face is, in contrast, hardly visible to us. He’s looking straight into the face of the impending reality and recognizes the importance of his actions, his body is tense and he is flying – over the city, over the country, over the epoch.”
Through unprecedented forms of collaboration, the Tretyakov’s renowned collection – which comprises the cultural canon of Russian modern art – has been selected and recomposed to design a new narrative, its stable chronologies disrupted in the process. The exhibition-experiment required an exploration of the museum as an archive and as a microcosm of urban life, initiating new partnerships and forms of collaboration along the way.
The exhibition emerged from the AUD module Curatorial Practices in Urban Projects, a course which examines the urbanist as a curator who shapes the city through carefully re-framed selections and interventions in urban space.
Curated by AUD Program Director Anastassia Smirnova and the CEO of Strelka Architects, Dasha Paramonova, the exhibition links the fluid world of cities with the archival world of the museum. It applies a contemporary urbanist conceptual toolkit to the museum space which reconsiders New Tretyakov’s established practices, architecture, and daily rhythms.
“Advanced Urban Design students and tutors suggested considering the museum as a city,” Anastassia Smirnova said. “The Tretyakov Gallery is a huge organism that resembles a modern megapolis. The museum’s curators gladly joined in with this game, acting as the urban community: they inspired and actively shaped the “Tretyakov Gallery: An Other Edition” project. As a result, young urban planners had the opportunity to talk about the specifics of their profession, and also to apply some urban planning techniques in the museum space. I have never seen an academic assignment grow into a project of such scale and quality.”
Though the exhibition-experiment is oriented towards visitors, “Tretyakov: An Other Edition” also opens a wider conversation about the re-conceptualization of a well-established institution that has held the same ground for decades, but which is now moving to new points of departure and shifts in its institutional operations and modes of public engagement. The exhibition takes place as the gallery is preparing for significant metamorphoses: OMA, Rem Koolhaas’ architectural office, plans to carry out an extensive renovation of the New Tretyakov Gallery’s monumental modernist space in the coming years, ‘editing’ aspects of the original, designed by Nikolay Sukoyan and Yury Sheverdyaev.