A key Russian contemporary art fair has been canceled in its 18th year and appears unlikely to return, The Art Newspaper reported. Art Moscow — by one account the city’s “oldest fair for contemporary art“; by another, “Russia’s oldest art fair” — seems to have been facing both economic and political troubles, including EU and US sanctions on the country, “which organisers fear may hurt the fair, since the half of the exhibitors are from abroad,” as well as an episode of censorship that happened at this past June’s International Book fair. According to The Art Newspaper (TAN):
A precedent was set this June at the International Book fair, when two plays were eliminated from the programme: one for a profusion of foul language, another because of an accusation of hidden gay propaganda. The organisers self-censored the works, although there was an implication of external pressure.
As artnet News points out, the blog of Moscow-based Baibakov Art Projects sums up the cancelation of the fair as “due to a combination of reasons ranging from politics (by now its hardly surprising that some galleries and artists could boycott a fair in Russia) to economics (the art market in the country is not exactly booming) to good old – fashioned censorship.”
In a follow-up interview with TAN, Vasily Bychkov, chief executive of Art Moscow organizer ExpoPark Exhibition Projects, admitted that the decision to cancel the fair was made in the winter, adding, “We decided to relocate the resources usually employed for Art Moscow — people, money — to another project.”
An article about last year’s edition of Art Moscow indicates the fair was already struggling financially, facing “budgetary woes and a stagnant art market in Russia.” Meanwhile, another contemporary art fair, Cosmoscow, will open in Moscow on Friday as planned. This is Cosmoscow’s second year after an initial outing in 2010, according to Baibakov; its website identifies it as “Russia’s only international fair for contemporary art.”