Daily Visual 12.06.15: Garage Museum Opens in Gorky Park


Today Garage Museum of Contemporary Art opened in a new space in Moscow. Founded by Dasha Zhukova in 2008, Garage took up provisional residence in the building of the former Bakhmetevsky Bus Garage: an 8,500 square-metre public garage conceptualised by Konstantin Melnikov in 1925, while in Paris for the International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts, and designed by Melnikov with engineering by Vladimir Shukhov. Bakhmetevsky Bus Garage, on Moscow’s Obraztsova Street, was completed in 1927.

The constructivist building was listed as an architectural monument in 1990, and in 2001 given to Moscow’s Hasidic Jewish Community for redevelopment. Dasha Zhukova, herself Jewish, happens to be married to Roman Abramovich, billionaire owner of Chelsea football club and also a chairman of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia; and after Garage opened on the reconfigured site in 2008, in 2012 it was replaced by the Jewish Museum & Tolerance Center.

Garage relocated to Gorky Park, a more central location in Moscow. Gorky Park was itself designed by Konstantin Melnikov, opening in 1928 on the same grounds that had been used five years earlier for the First All-Russia Agricultural Exhibition. The pavilion Garage occupied from 2012 was designed by the Japanese architect Shigeru Ban. His temporary structure covered 2,400 square metres, utilising environmentally friendly materials including recycled paper tube columns. Upon the launch of a competition for young Russian architects, 2013 saw the addition of an open-air summer pavilion.

Seeking more permanent accommodation, in 2012 Garage commissioned OMA, the firm of Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, for a new home in Gorky Park. In 2013 Abramovich bought two derelict buildings within the park which would serve as the frames for the new Garage: the former Seasons of the Year restaurant, popular in the 1960s and 1970s; and the Hexagon, itself a landmark building, once housing an exhibition centre and the largest cinema in Europe.

Rem Koolhaas personally led the project, which has cost $27 million. At this stage only the Seasons restaurant has been refurbished, and work won’t be complete until the September addition of a red staircase leading to a roof terrace; work on the Hexagon is still to commence, with OMA again committed, but plans under wraps. The new Garage covers 54,00 square metres, featuring a translucent double-layer polycarbonate facade that wraps around the concrete structure of the old restaurant. Inside, the building’s original Soviet mosaics, tiles, and brickwork have been preserved. Commenting on the project, Koolhaas has said:

‘There is something incredibly generous about Soviet architecture. It has a scale, in terms of receiving the public, that we just don’t do any more […] We didn’t have to think about inventing spectacular new shapes. You could say we are obstinately trying to be old-fashioned. We decided to accept almost everything of that building, even though it was very ruined. So all we do is actually clad what we found with a skin of polycarbonate.’

The shining polycarbonate facade is raised two metres from the ground to provide visitors with views of the surrounding park: itself the subject of an ongoing $2 billion renovation, begun in 2011 by Sergei Kapkov before his resignation as culture minister earlier this year saw the responsibility passed to Olga Zakharova. Garage’s two entrances rise from the centre of the building’s longest sides, folding horizontally and hanging seven metres above the level of the roof. The museum will host five exhibition galleries, an auditorium, education area, bookshop, and cafe.

While Garage has previously shown the work of international artists, including Mark Rothko and Marina Abramović, its focus under Zhukova and museum director Anton Belov remains contemporary art within Russia. It is home to the largest collection of Russian art from the 1950s to the present. A series of exhibitions will inaugurate the new building.

Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Theory will comprise two of the Japanese artist’s major installations: Infinity Mirrored Room – The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away (2013), which consists of a room with mirrored walls filled with thousands of small lights; and Guidepost to the Eternal Space (2015), which covers an environment in white polka dots on a red background. Rirkrit Tiravanija’s opportunely-titled Tomorrow is the Question will involve a group of participatory projects, including ping pong, printing T-shirts, and eating pelmeni. Tiravanija’s exhibit will also pay tribute to the Czech artist Július Koller.

George Kiesewalter’s Insider will showcase a collection of the Russian artist’s photographs from the 1970s and 1980s. Two monumental paintings by Russia’s Erik Bulatov, titled Come to Garage!, will be shown in the building’s atrium. And the museum will host The Sixties: Points of Intersection as part of its annual Garage Teens Team summer programme; Field Research: A Progress Report, a cross-disciplinary platform for contemporary artistic debates; and the work of the research initiative The Family Tree of Russian Contemporary Art. Meanwhile the final exhibition at Garage’s pavilion, the massive ‘living picture’ installation yes no why later by the German artist Katharine Grosse, will run until 9 August.