Cosmoscow Venue Commandeered in Russian Vaccine Drive
Russia's leading contemporary art fair was relocated and nudged back a week, creating challenges for international galleries.
Cosmoscow 2020 at Gostiny Dvor, the 18th century merchant hall that's now one of Russia's largest Covid-19 vaccine centres. Courtesy Cosmoscow.
The ninth Cosmoscow International Contemporary Art Fair has been postponed and moved to a new venue just nine days before it was scheduled to open at Gostiny Dvor on 10 September.
The fair will now take place from 18 to 20 September at the Central Exhibition Hall 'Manege', which was built for military exercises in 1817.
According to Margarita Pushkina, the founder and director of Cosmoscow, the fair received notice on 1 September that Gostiny Dvor, an 18th century merchant hall that's become one of the largest vaccination centres in Russia, would still be needed in the fight against Covid-19.
'Considering the extension of the centre's operation and the impossibility of combining both the vaccination centre and the fair at the same venue, we had to postpone the dates of the fair,' she said.
Cosmoscow said in a statement that tickets already purchased are valid for the new dates, and can be returned for a full refund.
The last minute changes pose a challenge for galleries attending the fair from overseas, including first time participants Pearl Lam Galleries (Hong Kong and Shanghai), Ayyam Gallery (Dubai), and nonprofit art platform Studiocur/art (Paris).
Ayyam Gallery had to cancel their booth, which would have showcased works by Afshin Pirhashemi, Rula Halawani, Safwan Dahoul, Sama Alshaibi, and Samia Halaby.
The gallery plans to join the 2022 edition instead.
'Two years into the pandemic, we were forced to stand still for a while and focus on the local art scene, which was great, but now that fairs have opened back up we are excited to expand our reach,' Maya Samawi, director of Ayyam Gallery, told Ocula Magazine.
'Following a slight pause of the art scene, people are excited about fairs, and the flux of people that travel between Russia and Dubai is impressive so it should be a good scene to pierce into,' she said.
'We have a particular interest in showing international artists in regions that are opening to contemporary art,' said Karina El Helou, founder of Studiocur/art. 'This is why the platform previously showed international artists in Lebanon and we now are interested in developing the careers of international artists in Russia but, as well, of Russian artists in Europe.'
El Helou said her own Russian origins were another reason she was excited to show work at Cosmoscow.
A spokesperson for the gallery said, 'In the given circumstances, we understand that there might be slight changes and delays, but we all aim to adjust and accept the change for the safety of everyone.'
Even Ayyam Gallery's Samawi was sympathetic to the organisers.
'I can only imagine how difficult this was for the Cosmoscow team,' she said. —[O]