Moscow’s Garage hosts auction exhibition

Moscow’s Garage Museum of Contemporary Art is to host an intriguing exhibition exploring the history of an infamous auction.

Titled “Bidding for Glasnost: Sotheby's 1988 Auction in Moscow”, the show focuses on a single 1988 sale held in Russia shortly before the collapse of communism.

Gorbachov Reagan 1988

Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan shake hands at a meeting in 1988 

It featured works from some of Russia’s most acclaimed artists, including Alexander Rodchenko, Ilya Kabakov and Varvara Stepanova.

Some of the works sold that day are to be shown on the walls of the gallery.

One of the most controversial aspects of the sale was that Russian buyers were not permitted to bid.

For some commentators the sale was seen as an important cultural exchange in the closing days of the communist era. The prices set were far higher than expected, suggesting that Russian artists could compete on a level playing field with the west.

However this proved a double-edged sword, as Garage explains: “Taking place during Perestroika - the period of restructuring Soviet economic and political policies - the event caused the collapse of the stark separation between the Soviet official and unofficial cultural systems; brought rivalry and competition into the art scene; and prompted a new wave of emigration by artists eager to benefit from the auction’s domino effect.

“Over time, the auction has become a myth, as outlined by writer Andrew Solomon: ‘It was in fact so heralded an event that in the years that followed critics, curators, collectors, and artists variously credited the auction house with discovering a movement, inventing a movement, and destroying a movement.’”

The show is on from January 23 to February 28.

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