Contemporary art in Russia is no longer the reserve of billionaire collectors

Russia has become a growing and flourishing contemporary art market. Ultra-rich Russians are famously known as big collectors of the latest pieces, but the opening of new venues also makes art available to all. Moscow, if not all of Russia, is witnessing a process that is democratizing contemporary art, which now seems to be everyone’s business. Centers for contemporary art and museums are launching different cultural projects for the public all over the country.
The Russian art market is usually associated with oligarchs, such as billionaire Roman Abramovich and celebrity collectors. The record breaking prices of the most noteworthy contemporary art pieces are more widely known than the numbers of annual visitors to contemporary art centres and museums.
However, in Moscow, the relatively recent creation of new art venues developing broad activities for adults and children, is also painting a new landscape for the art world. The Center for Contemporary Art “Garage”, is a non-profit cultural institution that opened in 2008 and carries out various projects such as the Moscow Biennale, exhibitions, cinema shows and educational programs.
Similarly the Centre for Contemporary Art “Winzavod” opened in 2007 in a building where wine was once made. It offers a variety of educational initiatives and exhibitions, as well as special activities such as “Start” and “Design territory”, projects that aim to support young artists and designers. Both organisations target a mass audience.
Moscow is thus in the process of becoming a world capital for contemporary art, like London or New York. But Elena Panteleeva, director of ‘Winzavod’, told the ‘Voice of Russia’ that there is still a long way to go: “With its number of galleries and artists, Moscow is difficult to compare with New York, London or Berlin. But I haven’t the feeling that we are at the periphery. Indications of art activity are all increasing.”
There are quite dynamic bodies for contemporary art in Moscow, and Director of the “Garage” Centre, Anton Belov believes that even if their total number is, for now, low compared to Europe’s capital cities, within 3 to 5 years, or maybe up to 10, Moscow will be an international centre for contemporary art.
Meanwhile some of Russia’s regional cities are falling in line right behind Moscow. As Elena Panteleeva told us: “This is confirmed, for example, by the museum PERMM [Perm Museum of Contemporary Art -], whose founder Gelman became the ideologue and pioneer of a regional development movement. The Industrial Biennale in Yekaterinburg also confirms the growing regional interest in contemporary art. Recently, as a part of the project ‘START’, supporting young artists, Winzavod organized exhibitions and workshops in cities such as Astrakhan, Perm, Yekaterinburg, Samara, and Krasnoyarsk. And our photo project, ‘BEST of RUSSIA’, went on tour through half the country.”
Even if contemporary art is often considered elitist and only for connoisseurs, galleries are expanding quite fast, and their audience is considerable. Anton Belov is sure that: “Russian society is absolutely ready for contemporary art. But it should be well explained and interpreted.”
Elena Panteleeva confirms this idea. According to her: “Judging by the ticket sales at Winzavod, by the popularity of the free monthly newspaper Winzavod ArtReview and by the active subscriptions on social networks (WINZAVOD has more than 100 thousand subscribers), it seems that public interest in contemporary art is growing.”
Nevertheless, even if growing, the audience remains well defined. Russian contemporary art-lovers are from younger generations; “It is essentially young people from 18 to 35 years old, students and young professionals from the middle class, that is not enough in Russia,” said Anton Belov in an interview with the ‘Voice of Russia’. But the development of art projects and new venues should support the process of democratizing contemporary art in Russia.

The model who posed for Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa masterpiece

A group of Italian archeologists has recently unearthed a skeleton beneath the floor of the medieval Convent of Saint Ursula in Florence, Italy. The ancient remains are believed to have belonged to the model who posed for Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa masterpiece
Scientists are now to compare the DNA in the bones with the remains of the Lisa Gherardini's two children, who were buried nearby in the Basilica della Santissima Annunziata. If the test proves the archeologists to be right, her appearance will be reconstructed based on the remaining scull and the world will finally learn what La Giaconda really looked likeThe results of the DNA test will be made known by early 2013. Until then, Mona Lisa’s identity will remain one of the biggest mysteries in the art worldArcheologist Silvano Vinceti, who is in charge of the dig, said several years ago he found a death certificate of Lisa Gherardini, referred to as Mona Lisa, who, according to the document, was buried in the Convent of Saint Ursula in FlorenceLisa Gherardini was the wife of a wealthy Florentine silk merchant, Francesco del Giocondo. Rumours have it La Giaconda could also be inspired by some woman of pleasure or a street prostitute, or even a male lover of the great Leonardo. Others say the Mona Lisa could in fact be a self-portrait

Art behind the Iron Curtain

On August 22, the Art behind the Iron Curtain exhibition of official and dissident art in the USSR and Poland in the period of 1945- 1989 will open in Moscow. The visitors of the All-Russian Museum of Arts and Crafts will have a chance to have a look at artists raging against the totalitarian machine and compare art life in the two countries.

ARTS: Despite adversity, dancer lands on her feet

ARTS: Despite adversity, dancer lands on her feet

 She revolved in and out of 22 foster homes within three years, attended 13 high schools and got pregnant at 15. After aging out of the system at 17, she lived on the streets at one point and cleaned motels for $8 an hour.
“My life was chaos,” said MacLean, 32. “I carried so much baggage.”
Today, as the owner of a growing business at 3579 University Ave. called Room to Dance, MacLean’s life is hectic by design. “I get agitated when I’m not working,” she said.
Since opening Riverside’s first adult-only studio in July 2011, enrollment has more than quadrupled to 960 dance students and increased its roster of non-traditional classes.
Like many of them, Gloria Doran, 26, packs in as many classes as she can afford and squeeze into her week, including contemporary, swing and ballroom. “April has created a great family atmosphere,” Doran said.
Michael Recon, 29, of Moreno Valley, a daily dance addict, said: “I lo0
……………e the fact that there’s no competition or cliques. We’re all here to have fun and improve.”
The classes are so popular that MacLean joined with business partner/teacher, Julie Simon. Simon, whom MacLean calls her “inspiration and soul mate,” encouraged her expand to a second location a block away at City Gym, 3485 University Ave. Called World to Dance, the satellite will open Jan. 5 and offer a smorgasbord of international genres, (including West African, Brazilian, Caribbean, Latin and drumming) as well as master classes and workshops.
Through an online social networking campaign, the duo raised $6,000 for the second startup, renovation of the 1,000-square-foot room, incorporation, insurance and equipment for both studios.
Simon, 43, an international dancer who has lived abroad, said she and MacLean complement each other as a business team.
“April is one of the smartest people I know,” Simon said. “A lot of people talk about doing things, but she actually does them. She’s a steamroller. She’s built her career on brilliance.”
Simon, whom her worshipful students call “Mama Love,” is the warm fuzzy of the pair, building her career on nurturing relationships with students, a connection MacLean appreciates and emulates.
“You’re not just teaching dance, you’re ministering to people who thank you so much,” MacLean said.
After a rocky road, MacLean has found love and stability with her husband of three years, David MacLean, 32, a hospital corpsman in the U.S. Navy. The two live in Riverside and share custody of April’s two daughters.
Still, it’s not easy to erase scars from an abusive family that landed MacLean in foster care at age 14. Three months was the longest she ever stayed in one home. She got married, had a second daughter, and then got divorced.
“I took a huge break between high school and college,” MacLean said.
Despite misgivings about her intelligence, she enrolled in Riverside Community College in 2004, where she benefited from mentoring and tough love professors. “They said, ‘You’re done here, move on’,” MacLean remembers. “I couldn’t think long term. But they really helped me grow.”
Her dancing flourished, as did her self-esteem, after MacLean started UC Riverside at the end of 2006 with the help of a huge student loan. She never did graduate because of a problem transferring some community-college credits.
Instead, she moved on, launching her career with Intersect Dance Theater in Riverside and mentored high-risk teens through a Youth Opportunity Center. By 2011, MacLean had scraped together $5,000, enough to open Room to Dance for those 18 and older in an upstairs former yoga studio.
“The problem is that adults’ minds and bodies are different and don’t learn or process information the same way as younger people,” she said. Classes taken with children and teens can inhibit and frustrate older folks.
Charging $8 for the first class and giving various discounts for packages and membership deals, MacLean offers 22 types of dances, including tap, salsa, hip hop, jazz, Zumba and strength training.
“This is my stress relief,” said Nestor Tenorio, 28, an Air Force reservist who lives in Moreno Valley. “This is the only place I can be silly.” Three classes a week have also slimmed him down and improved his heart and lungs.
MacLean has become a role model and confidante to many of her students. “She lets you speak your mind and reminds you to ask for help when you need it,” said Amanda Ridder, 21, a college student.
When asked how she’s triumphed over a sad childhood and turned things around, MacLean doesn’t waver: “My faith,” she said. “I have a very strong relationship with God.”

Jerome Myers

 Jerome Myers (March 20, 1867 - June 19, 1940) was a U.S. artist and writer. Born in Petersburg, Virginia and raised in Philadelphia, Trenton and Baltimore, he spent his adult life in New York City. Jerome worked briefly as an actor and scene painter, then studied art at Cooper Union and the Art Students League where his main teacher was George de Forest Brush. In 1896 and 1914, he was in Paris, but his main classroom was the streets of New York's lower East Side. His strong interest and feelings for the new immigrants and their life resulted in hundreds of drawings, as well as paintings, etchings and watercolors capturing the whole panorama of their lives as found outside of the crowded tenements which were their first homes in America.

Born in Petersburg, Virginia, Jerome Myers was one of Abram and Julia Hillman Myers' five children. As their father was often absent, the Myers clan was raised by their mother and eventually lived in Trenton, New Jersey, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. From time to time, the siblings were placed in foster homes when Mrs. Myers became ill. Given these family hardships, Myers began taking odd jobs at a young age, living in Baltimore, Maryland, before moving on to New York City. Arriving in Manhattan in 1886 at the age of nineteen, Myers worked for several years as a scene painter and later for the Moss Engraving Company, where he reproduced photographic negatives. During this time he began attending evening art classes at Cooper Union and the Art Students League. Even at this date, the artist's interest in urban subjects was evident. Myers' earliest oil, Backyard (1887), depicting clotheslines silhouetted against distant tenements, is today thought to be one of the first paintings exemplifying Ashcan School subject matter in America. Similarly around 1893, after sketching a canal boat during a day trip along the Morris and Essex Canal, the artist made his initial sale to the woman who resided on the boat. The price was two dollars.
In 1895, Myers found work in the art department of the New York Tribune. With savings of two hundred and fifty dollars from this job, he traveled to Paris in 1896. Upon his return to New York City, with only twenty dollars left, he rented, for seven dollars a month, a studio at 232 West 14th Street in a former five-story mansion, "equipped with a skylight and converted to the use of artists."

 There, his next door neighbor turned out to be Edward Adam Kramer, a painter just one year older than Myers himself. While the latter's art training had been limited to short stints at New York's Cooper Union and the Art Students League, Kramer had acquired his education in the European art centers of Munich, Berlin, and Paris. It was Kramer who ushered Myers into the world of the professional artist. One day; when the art dealer William Macbeth arrived at Kramer's studio to view work, Kramer directed him to Myers' studio as well. Macbeth purchased two small paintings of his early New York street scenes from Myers on the spot, and simultaneously recommended that the newcomer bring additional work to the gallery. Macbeth thought highly of these two paintings and, taking them to his gallery, soon sold one to an appreciative banker, James Speyer. As an early critic for the New York Globe stated: "Myers' reputation dates from that purchase." 
Macbeth also suggested that Myers relinquish further drawing in pencil and pastel, and turn instead to oils. In the years following 1902, Myers sold work through the Macbeth Gallery and exhibited in group shows at other venues. Significantly, in March and April 1903, when the Colonial Club of New York held its annual art show Exhibition of Paintings Mainly by New Men, among the twenty artists included were Robert Henri, John French Sloan, and Myers, showing their works together for the first time. 

For Jerome Myers, summer in Manhattan was rich in opportunity, for when the mercury soared it was certain to bring tenement dwellers out into the streets and parks of the city. By July 1906, Myers' reputation as a skilled artist depicting the life of the people on the Lower East Side was such that a New York Times reporter was assigned to him beginning at five o'clock one morning, in order to observe the artist capturing likenesses of industrious adults at work and lively children at play. To walk through the East Side with Myers, the reporter noted, "turning off here and there to glance at some particular house or group of people,... [was] to receive an impression of a joyous life lived in the open air for much the same reason as people live in that fashion in Europe—because their homes are not as comfortable as the streets.

 Individual responses to Myers' presence, however, were grounded in cultural differences. While the residents of Italian neighborhoods viewed the artist and his activities with excitement and curiosity; those of the Jewish Quarter, whose traditions often forbade the production of representational images, protested by the most pointed of all actions—moving away from the artist's range of vision.

Reginald Marsh

Reginald Marsh (March 14, 1898 – July 3, 1954) was an American painter, born in Paris, most notable for his depictions of life in New York City in the 1920s and 1930s. Crowded Coney Island beach scenes, popular entertainments such as vaudeville and burlesque, women, and jobless men on the Bowery are subjects that reappear throughout his work. He painted in egg tempera and in oils, and produced many watercolors, ink and ink wash drawings, and prints.

Reginald Marsh was born in an apartment in Paris above the Café du Dome. He was the second son born to his parents who were both artists themselves. His mother, Alice Randall was a miniaturist painter and his father, Fred Dana Marsh, was a muralist and one of the earliest American painters to depict modern industry. The family was well off; Marsh's paternal grandfather had made a fortune in the meat packing business. When Marsh was two years old his family moved to Nutley, New Jersey.

Marsh attended the Lawrenceville School and graduated in 1920 from Yale University. At Yale Art School he worked as the star illustrator for the Yale Record, the college newspaper. Marsh was noted to have fully enjoyed his time at Yale. He moved to New York after graduation, where his ambition was to find work as a freelance illustrator. In 1922 he was hired to sketch vaudeville and burlesque performers for a regular New York Daily News feature, and when The New Yorker began publication in 1925, Marsh was among the magazine's first cartoonists. He also submitted illustrations to the New Masses (an American Marxist journal published from the 1920s to the 1940s).

A casual interest in learning to paint led Marsh, in 1921, to begin taking classes at the Art Students League of New York, where his first teacher was John Sloan. By 1923 Marsh began to paint seriously. In 1925 Marsh visited Paris for the first time since he had lived there as a child and he fell in love with what the city had to offer him. Although Marsh had appreciated the drawings of Raphael, Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo since he was a child—his father's studio was full of reproductions of the old masters' work—the famous paintings that he saw at the Louvre and other museums stimulated in him a new fascination with the old masters.

While exploring the works of European painters such as Titian, Tintoretto, and Rubens, Marsh met Thomas Hart Benton in one of the galleries in France. Benton, known today as a social realist, and regionalist painter, was also a great student of the Baroque masters. The resemblance Marsh saw between Tintoretto's famous works and Benton's motivated Marsh to try to paint in a similar way. Following his European trip (in which he also visited Florence) Marsh returned to New York with a desire to utilize the principles he felt were evident in the art of the Renaissance painters—particularly the way large groups of figures, together with architecture or landscape elements, were organized into stable compositions.
Marsh then studied under Kenneth Hayes Miller and George Luks, and chose to do fewer commercial assignments. Miller, who taught at the Art Students League of New York, instructed Marsh on the basics of form and design, and encouraged Marsh to make himself known to the world. He looked at Marsh's early, awkward burlesque sketches and at his more conventional landscape watercolors and said, "These awkward things are your work. These are real. Stick to these things and don't let anyone dissuade you!" By the beginning of the 1930s Marsh began to express himself fully in his art. As late as 1944 Marsh wrote, “I still show him every picture I paint. I am a Miller student."

Marsh began to work with John Steuart Curry after his training with Miller. Both Marsh and Curry took lessons from Jacques Maroger, whom Marsh met in New York City in 1940. Maroger, who was a former restorer at the Louvre, believed he had discovered the secrets of the old masters and was well known for his advocacy of a painting medium made by cooking white lead in linseed oil. Maroger provided a body of material documenting his work for Marsh and Curry to study, and they adopted his ideas.

Marsh's etchings were his first work as an artist. In the early 1920s he also made several linocuts, and later produced lithographs and engravings. He kept careful watch of the technique he used for his prints, noting the temperature of the room, the age of the bath that his plates were soaked in, the composition, and the length of time the plate was etched. When making prints of the etchings Marsh recorded how long the paper soaked for, the heating of the plate, and the nature of the ink used. Marsh enjoyed experimentation with all his artworks and was therefore renowned for his unique techniques. In the early 1920s he began to work with watercolor and oil. He did not take to oil naturally and decided to stick to watercolor for the next decade. Yet, in 1929 he discovered egg tempera, which he found to be somewhat like watercolor but with more depth and body.

Reginald Marsh rejected modern art, which he found sterile. Marsh's style can best be described as social realism. His work depicted the Great Depression and a range of social classes whose division was accentuated by the economic crash. His figures are generally treated as types. "What interested Marsh was not the individuals in a crowd, but the crowd itself ... In their density and picturesqueness, they recall the crowds in the movies of Preston Sturges or Frank Capra".

Marsh's main attractions were the burlesque stage, the hobos on the Bowery, crowds on city streets and at Coney Island, and women. His deep devotion to the old masters led to his creating works of art in a style that reflects certain artistic traditions, and his work often contained religious metaphors. "It was upon the Baroque masters that Marsh based his own human comedy", inspired by the past but residing in the present. The burlesque queen in the etching Striptease at New Gotham (1935) assumes the classic Venus Pudica pose; elsewhere, "Venuses and Adonises walk the Coney Island beach [and] deposed Christs collapse on the Bowery". The painting Fourteenth Street (1934, in the Museum of Modern Art, New York) depicts a large crowd in front of a theater hall, in a tumbling arrangement that recalls a Last Judgment.

Marsh filled sketchbooks with drawings made on the street, in the subway, or at the beach. Marolyn Cohen calls Marsh's sketchbooks "the foundation of his art. They show a passion for contemporary detail and a desire to retain the whole of his experience". He drew not only figures but costumes, architecture, and locations. He made drawings of posters and advertising signs, the texts of which were copied out along with descriptions of the colors and use of italics. In the early 1930s he took up photography as another means of note taking.
Signage, newspaper headlines, and advertising images are often prominent in Marsh's finished paintings, in which color is used to expressive ends—drab and brown in Bowery scenes; lurid and garish in sideshow scenes.

The drawings of burlesque and vaudeville acts Marsh made in the 1920s for the New York Daily News are among the first of his many images of popular theater. Such entertainments flourished throughout the country and were available all over New York City. The burlesque that Marsh captured can be described as raunchy and vulgar, but also comedic and satiric. Marsh's drawings depict chorus girls, clowns, theater goers and strippers. Burlesque was "the theater of the common man; it expressed the humor, and fantasies of the poor, the old, and the ill-favored." Marsh continued his burlesque sketches during his trip to Paris in 1925.
In 1930 Marsh was well off; he was successful in his career and had inherited a portion of his grandfather's money. Nonetheless, the lower class members of society were his preferred subject matter, as he contended that "well bred people are no fun to paint". Marsh's Bowery scenes depict people who had a crisis thrust upon them, which is why his work shows a loss of human integrity and control in all aspects. His etching Bread Line—No On Has Starved (1932) depicts a row of men in a frieze-like arrangement that emphasizes their immobility. (The print's title mocks a complacent remark made by President Hoover.)

Marsh liked to venture out to Coney Island to paint, especially in the summer time. There he began to paint massed beached bodies. Marsh emphasizes the bold muscles and build of his characters, which relate to the heroic scale of the older European paintings. Marsh said "I like to go to Coney Island because of the sea, the open air, and the crowds—crowds of people in all directions, in all positions, without clothing, moving—like the great compositions of Michelangelo and Rubens."

Marsh was also drawn to the ports of New York. In the 1930s the harbors were extremely busy with people and commerce due to the country's necessity for economic recovery. The Great Depression brought about a decline in raw materials and therefore the demand for those materials grew dramatically, resulting in bustling harbors in big cities such as New York. Marsh would sketch the seaports, focusing on the tugboats coming in and out of the harbor, and capturing the details of the boats such as the masts, the bells, the sirens, and the deck chairs.

As on Coney Island, Marsh captured the crowds of the bustling inner city life. Marsh spent a lot of his time on the sidewalks, the subways, the nightclubs, bars and restaurants finding the crowds. He also loved to single people out on the trains, in the parks, or in ballrooms to capture a single human figure in isolation from the rest of the city.

Marsh was obsessed with the American woman as a sexual and powerful figure. In the 1930s during the Great Depression more than 2 million women lost their jobs, and women were said to be exploited sexually. Marsh's work shows this exploitation by portraying men and women in the same paintings. The women may be half clothed or fully naked, and are purposeful and strong; the men are voyeurs, often less imposing than the women. According to art historian Marilyn Cohen, "[Marsh's] world is filled with display: movies, burlesque, the beach, and all forms of public exhibition. Men and women are both spectators and performers within a heavily sexualized world. And Marsh was clearly fascinated by both aspects of that world—almost always presenting its two sides in the same image.”
During the 1940s and for many years Reginald Marsh became an important teacher at the Art Students League of New York, which ran a summer camp where Marsh's students included Roy Lichtenstein.] Lichtenstein was influenced by Marsh's subject matter in his work. Also in the 40s Marsh began making drawings for magazines such as Esquire, Fortune, and Life. A degree of mannerism is apparent in his later paintings, in which wraithlike figures "float in a watery netherworld" in a deeper pictorial space than that of his compositions of the 1930s.]

Shortly before his death he received the Gold Medal for Graphic Arts awarded by the American Academy and the National Institute for Arts and Letters. Marsh died from a heart attack in Dorset, Vermont on July 3, 1954.
Many of his prints and thousands of unpublished sketches were found in his estate after he died. They revealed more of the true depth of his work. Because Marsh made good records of his work, often on a daily basis, it was easy to find his unpublished works and publish them. A set of prints that were acquired by William Benton from Marsh's wife are now all in the William Benton Museum of Art, the New York Public Library, and the Middendorf Gallery in Washington, D.C.