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Night at the Museum

December 25, 2009 - February 28, 2010

Night at the Museum

Valentin Diaconov

Exactly a hundred years ago, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti urged the readers of the first Futurist Manifesto, "Turn aside the canals to flood the museums! …Oh, the joy of seeing the glorious old canvases bobbing adrift on those waters, discolored and shredded!" Then, the horrors of the First and Second World Wars ameliorated the pathos of destruction which the Futurists used as their weapon. If for no other reason then because there was no dearth of destruction in the aftermath. The new, post-war sentiments leaned towards the paradigm of preservation and assumed as a given the fragility of culture and historical heritage. Thus, the museum again took center stage. From a repository of antiquities and examples for emulation, it gradually turned into a center for research and entertainment, increasingly more open to innovation. One particular branch of development in the museum arena has received in recent years extensive support from both governments and private entities: the construction and funding of museums of contemporary art as spaces dedicated to the preservation and development of newness. The museum is finally becoming a part of an industry of entertainment on a very mass scale. The project Night at the Museum, for instance, takes its name from a two-part American blockbuster movie in which museum exhibits come to life and cause all manner of comical troubles for the night watchman. Likewise, one also has to recall Dan Brown's novel The Da Vinci Code, whose plot develops inside the walls of the Louvre.

This series of associations is not accidental. For the museum, the exhibition will become its most evident attempt to attract the most democratic audience possible. If the earlier projects foregrounded the figure of the artist and the specific concerns and tendencies of contemporary art, then Night at the Museum was born as a project originating with the viewer. For the director of the museum, Marat Guelman, Night at the Museum is a professional challenge. In all his previous activities, Guelman took the side of the artist; his job was to create a comfortable environment for the artists working with his gallery. His new professional identity engenders new problems since a museum is not quite an experimental space - it depends on the interests and immediate participation of the viewers.

Night at the Museum is created with an audience in mind that is at once prepared and difficult. These are educated people interested in art who have enough baggage to appreciate art that is "old" in a general sense, from the antiquity to the classic avant-garde. However, they feel diffident when encountering contemporary art. Most often, the problems for this audience come from the unfamiliar "rules of the game," i.e. stylistic and formal differences that set it apart from earlier epochs, its seeming indiscrimination in means of expression, and the conceptual basis of various artistic gestures and objects. Night at the Museum strives to show through concrete examples how a contemporary artist works with familiar textbook material: manipulates, it, revives is, venerates it. Thus it becomes easier to understand and appreciate work done with the image of "museum" pieces conducted by contemporary artists.

In short, at the Night at the Museum show, the viewer sees art that enters into dialogue with the legacy of the past. Nor does this mean that we are talking only about quotation. Some artists represented at the exhibition go beyond citing to construct their own version of "real" (emotionally, rather than intellectually, oriented) art today with the help of new forms or new technologies. Of course, in its pursuit of the viewer, the exhibition does not forget the interests of the artist. Artists, naturally, are not kicked to the curb in a museum boom. They show an intense simultaneous interest in several aspects of the museum. Firstly, it is lucrative and prestigious to make it into the museum. The half-slangy term "museum thing" is used among critics and experts as the highest compliment they can pay an artist's work. Secondly, it is the museums that operate with the highest values in the visual arts, a certain set of achievements relative to which we account for and catalogue other, non-museum or not-yet-museum phenomena. The tasks of using these achievements in their own practice, playing with the masterpieces of the past, and transferring them from a museum context into a contemporary one are the ones to which many artists turn today. The immediate predecessors of this kind of experimentation are, of course, Pop artists, particularly Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol. Both of them created collisions of uniqueness with everydayness, of museum masterpieces with modern types of mass print reproduction (the typographic dot matrix in the first case, silk screening in the second).

There will be continuations of this Pop line in the project Night in the Museum in the works by Georgy Ostretsov or Avdei Ter-Oganyan. However, the strategies for transforming museum specimens can be quite different, and Night at the Museum gathers in one space a variety of the best examples. The immediate inspiration for the project came from the aforementioned Hollywood film and Alexander Vinogradov and Vladimir Dubosarsky's exhibition Danger! Museum, which ran as part of the parallel program of the 53rd Venice Biennale. The famous duo juxtaposes quotations from Giorgione to Duchamp in the unified spaces of stylistically socialist realist paintings. This kind of art forces us simultaneously to play a guessing game and consider the real degree of influence exerted by world-famous works, as well as their meaning as seen through contemporary perception.

With all that, Night at the Museum has a traditional look. The exhibition was designed to imitate a museum hang, a neutral space with no special effects. The contrast between the traditionality of the display and "revived" paintings creates the central intriguing element of the project.


Aes+F, Tatiana Antoshina, Vladimir Anzelm, Tanatos Banionis, Yulia Bezshtanko, Blue Noses, Alex Buldakov, Gor Chahal, Braco Dimitruevic, Philipp Dontsov, Vladimir Dubossarsky & Alexander Vinogradov, Alexander Florensky, Nikita Gashunin, Dmitry Gutov, Elena Kitaeva, Konstantin Khudyakov, Alexander Kosolapov, Vladimir Kozin, Oleg Kulik, Yuri Lapshin, Vlad Mamyshev-Monroe, Oleg Migas & Anatoly Gankevich, Nikola Ovchinnikov, Georgy Ostretsov, Recycle (Blokhin, Kuznetsov), Alexander Roitburd, Arsen Savadov, Alexander Savko, Yuri Shabelnikov, Alexander Sigutin, Yuri Solomko, Avdey Ter-Oganian

Go to Main

PERMM. Perm Museum of Contemporary Art

Curated by:
Marat Guelman

Opening December 24, 2009 10.00 p.m.

Opening - by invitation only

Exhibition Hours:

December 25, 2009 - February 28, 2010

12:00 p.m. - 9 p.m., daily

Press-service of PERMM Museum of contemporary art:
Irina Gulaya, tel. +7 (342) 2199111

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