September 12, 2012 / 4:40 PM / 6 years ago

Moving museum takes "snapshot" of unsung Russian art

MOSCOW (Reuters) - British art curator James Brett believes people are either born artists or they are not.

The eccentric founder of the “Museum of Everything” toured Russia this summer hunting for self-taught and unknown artists to take part in a book project and show.

Launched in 2009, Brett’s travelling museum offers “undiscovered, unintentional and untrained” artists a platform to show their works to a wider audience, a chance few would likely receive from professional galleries or museums.

“Art begins at birth, it doesn’t begin with education,” Brett said while vetting submissions in Moscow for “Exhibition #5”, the museum’s new Russian project.

“There are artists making art in secret, expressing some personal vision of life today. The only way to find them is to publicize and tell them we’ll give them a forum and we’ll show their art here, inside the museum.”

The Museum travelled across five Russian cities in the course of five weeks, holding open days for people to present their works to a jury headed by Brett, who said he was searching for “truthful” pieces “not copying, not in a style.”

Having undertaken similar projects in Britain, Brett, joined by representatives of Moscow art centre Garage, took two empty trucks across part of Russia to fill them up with works from more than 500 artists.

The final selection will be announced shortly and will include at least 25 discoveries to be displayed in April 2013 at Garage and curated alongside historic Russian self-taught artists from the 20th and 21st centuries, Brett said.

All the artists who pitched up will also appear photographed with their works in a book published ahead of the exhibit.

“All the artists will be published. Because every single person is important, each project is really a snapshot of Russia today in terms of creative expression,” Brett said.

Arriving alone or represented by family or friends, artists submitted works ranging from the deeply philosophical to the comical.

Whatever the interface or scope of their works, all artists had a lot to say and had never before had the opportunity to say it, due to “segregation and bias of curators, who only want fine artists from fine-art institutions,” Brett said.

Konstantin Sidoruk, a 45-year-old molecular biologist from the Moscow region, took his chalk drawings around galleries in Moscow and St Petersburg for a decade only to be sent off, until he heard about the Museum of Everything on television.

“I’ve gone to galleries for years. They said it was not interesting from the point of view of contemporary art. But I knew it was good and continued doing it,” he told Reuters after submitting drawings of angels or wingless birds to the Museum.

“I would like for my works to go to the people, and I want for them (gallerists) to stop pointing fingers at me saying ‘You are not an artist’. I want recognition,” he said.

Having consciously timed his tour in Russia, where the opposition rallies and protest art flourished around the presidential election, won by Vladimir Putin in March, Brett said he expected to see more political art than he did.

“There are protests, but they are very soft, very gentle. We don’t see that much politicized art because people are afraid to express it. In Moscow people are a little bolder,” he said, adding that he saw some violence and anger among street artists.

In most Russian works, ranging from landscape paintings to verbal philosophy, however, the themes of Christianity, history, mostly Soviet, and nature, prevailed, Brett said.

“It’s metaphor for Russia, for religion. People are searching for meaning. People are searching for spiritual truth, looking for divine life..., trying to recapture history, to find out who they are.”

Reporting by Nastassia Astrasheuskaya, editing by Paul Casciato

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