News from Garage: Lost & Found in 2020 | December 2020



Dear friends,

For Garage, as for everyone, the year 2020 was marked by the global COVID-19 pandemic. It brought a great deal of pain; radically disrupted what had been considered natural activities, such as the freedom to travel and the ability to gather and communicate physically; seriously damaged numerous economies, businesses, households, and institutions; and was, overall, almost unbearable. Surprisingly, however, good things continued to happen, despite the extreme circumstances. This year emphasized the importance of community, care, and support; gave us the opportunity to develop our adaptability and to think outside the box; and revealed malfunctioning systems, facilitating discussion of questions about how to improve. For the December newsletter, which traditionally summarizes the past twelve months of life at Garage, we decided to create a checklist of what we have been grateful for this year and what we have missed, our “lost and found.”

We wish you all safe and happy holidays.

See you in 2021!

Anton Belov
Garage Museum of Contemporary Art




It was no surprise that pandemic restrictions disrupted our exhibition calendar, but programs managed to continue. Apart from the shows that opened early in the year and were extended, we put on three new exhibition projects: Garage Square Commission Transformer by renowned Kazakh artist Yerbossyn Meldibekov, Tomás Saraceno’s aerial installation Moving Atmospheres as the Garage Atrium Commission, and our key project in support of Russian artists, the big and bold 2nd Garage Triennial of Russian Contemporary Art A Beautiful Night For All The People. Check out the virtual panorama of the 2nd Garage Triennial here, published with the support of Gazprombank, the Museum's new partner. Overall, during this year, we were lucky to have 190 days of exhibitions and 260,272 exhibition visitors.

Rapid programming, delivered within two and a half months, meant that Garage Screen hosted a rich selection of screenings. Highlights of the year featured a unique analogue cinema program made possible thanks to a newly-acquired 35mm projector, and a two-day cycle of audiovisual performances organized together with Fields Experimental Music Festival—a successful experiment that Garage Screen intends to repeat next year. The pavilion for Garage Screen, an “inside-out” marquee created by snkh architectural studio from Yerevan, will stay for the 2021 season.

The current pandemic underlined the visibility of digital structures, and Garage Digital came into a strange non-programmed resonance with this new reality. With no intention to corrupt the circumstances, Garage Digital focused on alternative online formats that included a science fiction reading group with theorist and curator Boris Klyushnikov, Kirill Savchenkov’s performative lecture, and Sofa Skidan’s performative practical session—all to collectively imagine the new ways of construction of possible futures. Garage Digital has also commissioned and released a line of publications, new works by artists Yulia Kozhemyako and Mikhail Maksimov, and has just published the projects created as part of the Garage Digital grant program.

Garage Field Research team succeeded in turning their international collaborations into a long-distance format and extended the ongoing projects of Naeem MohaiemenKarol RadziszewskiJohn AkomfrahWalid Raad, and Afrah Shafiq to mid-2021. At the same time, Isadorino Gore dance cooperative used the slowdown to successfully complete their research project with a comprehensive “toolbox” publication featuring archival materials and detailed instructions on how to conduct research through dancing.

Due to public health restrictions, we canceled several mass events, such as the Mosaic Music concerts and the Garage Art Book Fair. The Garage Art Book Fair—an event that partly aims to support local publishers—took the form of a grant offered together with Frankfurter Buchmesse in Russia. The Mosaic Music concerts are expected to return next year.




Isolation and various cancellations created a somewhat enforced slowdown. Many of us used these exceptional circumstances to recollect thoughts and look for new knowledge. During the spring lockdown we launched two programs that invited applicants to respond to the situation with texts and images: an open-call for submissions about self-isolation, and Reflections, a project which involved 34 artists and authors in creating a textual and visual chronicle of events.

Coincidentally, this year we also launched an independent interdisciplinary academic publication, The Garage Journal: Studies in Art, Museums & Culture. The journal is open for submissions in various forms, from articles and archival materials to visual and data essays, which is a specific feature of this research platform. The first issue, Transitory Parerga: Access and Inclusion in Contemporary Art, came out in November. In addition, The Garage Journal started a grant program to support independent and early career researchers engaged in writing on the arts and culture.

Garage Archive and Library continued to grow. The library was enriched with 3,000 new items and new commissions within the Single Copy project that aims to support and collect artist’s books. Garage Archive and Russian Art Archive Network (RAAN) continued to support institutions and independent researchers who collect archives on Russian contemporary art. The TsK19 Cultural Center in Novosibirsk and researchers Anya Kiyashchenko and Elena Vershinina joined the program this year.

Garage Publishing program produced 11 new books and 25 more in collaboration with Ad Marginem Press. The highlights include Pavel Pepperstein’s memoirs Exhibitionist, Andrey Smirnov’s publication on experimental sound culture in pre-war Russia and the USSR, Nikolay Malinin’s overview of contemporary Russian wooden architecture, and Serguei Oushakine’s А Medium for the Masses: Photomontage and the Optical Turn in Early Soviet Russia.




By mid-January 2021, Garage will have spent five months in lockdown with a “summer break” marked by sanitary restrictions for both staff and visitors. Our team members whose duties involve immediate contact with visitors (front desk, guides and invigilators, Сafé and Bookshop staff) have had to embrace many changes in their line of work; you might remember them sharing their feelings in our July newsletter. They also used their spare time for social work and to help other departments, online projects, and training.

The call for new ways of communication on an institutional level brought to life Self-Isolation. Realizing that a virtual replica of the Museum does not guarantee mindful encounters, we decided to create a platform to experiment with formats: create experiences inherent to online, discover stories untold, hold mediation and reading groups via Zoom, reinvent the public program, and activate the viral potential of Garage Digital. Around 77,000 unique visitors visited Self-Isolation in the three months of its active existence. Today it remains a fascinating artifact and collection of knowledge gathered during those strange times.

Garage Education department faced a challenging task to rethink the program for an online audience. Experimentation and an attempt to meet these new needs became the source of new skills and experience. The indicative initiatives included online mediation for Sekretiki: Digging Up Soviet Underground Culture, 1966–1985, which was visited by over 500 people during 150 virtual sessions, and emphasis on audio experience—two podcasts were recorded for the 2nd Garage Triennial. The education team also made the most of online communication, connecting Garage Teens virtually to Teen Art Salon in Long Island, USA, and creating a joint course for teens with the Tselinny center in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Garage Academic Programs also moved lectures and seminars to Zoom so that students could attend from home and lecturers, including invited specialists from other countries, could participate. The MA program Curatorial Practices in Contemporary Art admitted twelve new students this year with Iris Foundation, the founding body of Garage, providing financial support to 50% of the newcomers: three of them received grants covering the full cost of the MA program, and the other three, half of the total program cost.




The art world has been struggling with unprecedented financial, institutional, and personal havoc. We grieve for colleagues who left us: Irina Antonova, Sven Gundlakh, Ivan Chuikov, Germano Celant, Alexander Vedernikov, Kim Ki Duk, Kenzo Takada, among many others. In this challenging moment, the support found within the community was vital. Garage is sincerely grateful to the artists, institutions, researchers, specialists, and other colleagues and contributors who helped us release our ideas, extend our exhibitions, open new ones, and conduct over 300 online and offline events.

Inspired by this spirit, for the first time in Garage history, we have organized an open call to select participants for the upcoming exhibition Assuming Distance: Speculations, Fakes, and Predictions in the Age of the Coronacene. The project aims to support the local artist community and facilitate the production of new work in these uncertain times. Planned for March 27–July 4, 2021, the show will invite artists to assume any distance from the current situation they feel comfortable with and envisage speculation as a way of interacting with our reality.

During this complicated year, due to the restrictions, Garage Studios were also on and off. However, even while locked down, the program continued support for the local artistic community, providing them remotely with materials and helping those in particular need. As for the year to come, Garage Studios will shortly announce a new program that will provide increased support to selected artists for a period of one year.

Our off-site collaborations were reinforced with the program to support Tsikory Zheleznogorsk Center for Contemporary Art (Kursk Region). Tsikory seeks to become a key institution in the sustainable development of Zheleznogorsk’s cultural community and foster the development of the entire region. The project is realized together with the Museum’s longtime partner Alisher Usmanov’s Art Science and Sport Charity Foundation.




This year cooperation and support have been more important than ever. During the first lockdown, Garage explored its social functions from a new perspective. Together with friends, partners, and local social service organizations, we delivered 4,500 food and care packages for refugees, people with disabilities, seniors, and families in need, while Garage Café provided over 58,000 lunches for volunteers and medical and social workers.

Garage Grants continued to provide support within the professional field, re-focusing on the local scene. Our usual Archive Summer grant for researchers, Garage.txt for written contributions, and scholarships for the MA Curatorial Practices in Contemporary Art took place as usual, while the program in support of local emerging artists increased the number and value of grants this year. The new initiatives included a the Grant Program for researchers facilitated by The Garage Journal, the Garage Digital grant for projects in the digital field, and the Grant Program for Independent Publishers.

This year marked the fifth anniversary of Inclusive Programs department. Throughout this time, the department hosted and organized many important initiatives and played an active part in the ongoing transformation of the attitude to inclusion in Russia. During this uneasy year, the team launched a course on working with people with migration and forced resettlement experiences, a program of professional development for Russian Sign Language interpreters, and is about to release a new platform for inclusive practiсes. In this comprehensive material, the department sets out other programs and projects released over the past five years.

We are happy to say that Garage has received a lot of support itself! We are infinitely grateful to our partners, donors, patrons, and cardholders who stayed with us in these tough times. This year also marked some significant milestones: The GARAGE card program celebrated its 10th anniversary and Garage Endowment Fund its first. Within a year, the Endowment Fund has become the third-largest museum endowment in Russia, attracting 86 million rubles of investment. Within the endowment we launched Fund 2 which focuses on academic and research projects, including scholarships and The Garage Journal. The Endowment Fund was also supported by Cosmoscow Art Fair and the auction Vladey.

Garage Café and Bookshop lived through some tough times but bravely embraced new initiatives as well. Garage Bookshop has successfully launched Garage Limited Editions—a series of limited edition artworks produced for the Museum by Russian and international contemporary artists, part of the income from which will be donated to Garage Endowment Fund, while Garage Café renewed its wine list with only Russian wines in support of local vineyards.



As a special treat before the holiday season, Garage Field Research contributor Afrah Shafiq shared with us her new interactive browser artwork. The project is inspired by the multiplicity and diversity of the Marian figure all over the world. Our Lady of I Can Be Anything You Want Me To is a simulated bot that contemplates icon making, data vs insight, the logic of generative adversarial networks, and what it means to be a container for different and contradictory ideas to converge freely. Play with the bot to explore the evolutions of Mother Mary and render your own version to contribute to the continually morphing form. The artwork is available free of charge until January 31, 2021, to be viewed on your computer/laptop (not mobile-friendly) via this link.




CREDITS: Afrah Shafiq, Our Lady Of I Can Be Anything You Want Me To, 2020 © Afrah Shafiq



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