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Putting Siberia on the world map of contemporary art

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10 August 2012


Anna Tereshkova, Siberian Centre of Contemporary Art (SCCA). Picture: SCCA

Anna Tereshkova, Director of the Siberian Centre of Contemporary Art in Novosibirsk, Western Siberia. 

A mother of five, she is married to Dmitry Tereshkov, Chairman of Siberian Grain Corporation. 

I was born in Novosibirsk, lived here all my life, and want to stay here. 

My parents, intellectuals and romantics from St Petersburg, came to 'build up Siberia'. My father is a doctor of Geo-Physical sciences, mother is a medical doctor. I dreamed about becoming a doctor, too, since early childhood, so after school I entered Novosibirsk Medical Institute.

I do not have an art education, like many other famous people who came to the Russian contemporary art scene.

Twelve years ago, with my husband Dmitry, we opened 'Old Town' Art Gallery, which was the first and only gallery in Novosibirsk at the time. It exhibited works of the best Siberian artists, both recognised and the younger ones, mostly working in a fairly traditional manner. 

Three years ago I felt that the format of the gallery had outlived itself. I realised that Novosibirsk needed a centre of contemporary art, to present Siberian art groups like 'Blue Noses', who were on top of the wish lists of all major European art events, like the Venice Biennale - yet were unknown in Siberia! 

United States of Siberia

Naive art painter Gennady Murygin-Tolstoy
United States of Siberia, by Damir Muratov, Anna Tereshkova private collection. 
Below: Naive Art painter
Gennady Murygin-Tolstoi, centre, at the opening of his exhibition. Pictures: SCCA

I also wanted it to be an introduction to the works of Moscow artists, and those from abroad. 

So this is how I started, by organising a big exhibition of the 'Blue Noses' art group. The success was so obvious, that the very next day the Minister of Culture of Novosibirsk Region announced the creation of the Siberian Centre of Contemporary Art. 

A year later this centre was opened, I became the Head of it, and our exhibitions have  travelled to 15 cities in Siberia and the Urals during the last three years.

The Siberian Centre of Contemporary Art (SCCA) was opened as a public-private partnership - the Regional Museum provided the space, and the Foundation for the Support of Contemporary Art, of which I am also the Patron of, has funded exhibitions and education projects. 

We aim to show the best Siberian artists, promote them both here and abroad, and to introduce best contemporary artists from elsewhere in Russia and abroad to Siberians. We carry a number of educational projects, and take part in all large contemporary art events. 

One exhibition in our centre was prepared by the well-known curator Andrei Erofeev; another was by Russian artist Oleg Kulik, aka 'Dog Man'. He showed ‘Messiah’ opera, which had very warm reviews in Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris. Kulik also read a master-class. Another bright star of Russian contemporary art, Anatoly Osmolovsky, read his lectures in our centre. 

We recently finished with the  Land-Art Festival, which had artists, architects and designers creating different objects on the banks of the Ob Sea. 

Novosibirsk Centre of Contemporary Art

Novosibirsk Centre of Contemporary Art

SIberian Centre of Contemporary Art. Pictures: SCCA

I am proud to say that last year we nominated a young Novosibirsk artist Artyom Loskutov for 'Innovation' - one of two major Russian awards for contemporary art, recognising his talent for street art performances. Artyom was one of inspirers behind the idea of 'Monstration' - an artistic street rally, mocking official political demonstrations.

Monstrations have become so popular since the first one in 2004 that they gather thousands of people in Siberia, and have people organising them in Moscow and St Petersburg in Russia, as well as in Latvia, China and Thailand.  

We have created a very dense, rich programme of exhibitions and educational events. 

What slowed us was the lack of space, and the fact that it was not that adapted for exhibiting artworks. We've established a rather wide range of our own public, but we wanted contemporary art to be seen and appreciated even by those who don't usually go to museums or galleries. 

We believe that contemporary art is like a powerful accelerator to the mind, enriching and speeding it up.  

Last winter we arranged to show a huge exhibition called 'Rodina' (Motherland), collected by prominent Russian gallery owner Marat Gelman. 

The exhibition included the works of some 30 of the most famous Russian artists, almost none of whom had exhibited in Novosibirsk before. 

It was ambitious, considering even the size of the works. We could hardly find a venue in the centre of the city, then finally got it and were ready to start on the International Museums Night. This exhibition was devoted to the images of post-Soviet Russia.

Rodina exhibition, Novosibirsk Centre of Contemporary Art

Rodina exhibition, Novosibirsk Centre of Contemporary Art

Rodina (Motherland) exhibition, Siberian Centre of Contemporary Art. Pictures: SCCA

It was ironic, but it also had a lot of serious works, with artists exploring all aspects of life -  politics, religion, relationship between society and authorities, elites and 'common' people, artists and the proletariat. 

The exhibition was spectacular, it was very entertaining  - and democratic. But a few days before the opening we were forbidden to use the public area on a made up pretext that it offended the patriotic feelings and provoked tension in society. 

We had local MPs, the Orthodox Church and an ultraconservative organisation standing against us. 

They were protesting, writing letters to the authorities and demanding the exhibition should be banned. So we moved to another site - the building of an old airport, but even there the owners banned us from exhibiting 'Rodina'! 

We had to try again, and only third attempt was lucky: we mounted it on a private site, in an awkward, not very well suited place for art exhibitions, without any support, financial or organisational. 

But it was visited by thousands of people - and that is a lot for Novosibirsk. 

Reviews were fantastic and very warm: people were genuinely surprised at why the authorities wanted to prevent them from making their own idea about it. 

And despite the fact that we spent a lot of effort, time and money, I believe that through this exhibition Novosibirsk became a little freer and closer to Europe. 

We are showing this exhibition in Krasnoyarsk now, then it will move to Moscow. 

Rodina exhibition, Novosibirsk Centre of Contemporary Art 

Rodina exhibition, Novosibirsk Centre of Contemporary Art

Rodina (Motherland) exhibition, organised by the Siberian Centre of Contemporary Art. Pictures: SCCA

I can confidently say that in this century the Russian media never gave so much attention to any other artistic event, as they did with the 'Rodina' exhibition. 

To me this is proof of artists - not literature, as it has always been in Russia - currently being the frontmen for Russian culture and its leading voice. 

After my two years of work for the Siberian Centre of Contemporary Art I look optimistically in the future, though we've got enough problems to deal with. 

The social climate has changed in our country over the last year. The government treats contemporary artists with a quite a suspicion, while conservatives are calling for censorship. 

Still, I am confident that we will go on with serious and important exhibitions, and will certainly continue with our educational events. Quite often those ones who treat modern art with suspicion and dislike simply need to know a bit more about it to understand it. 

And I do hope that one day my Novosibirsk will have its own signature building for the Siberian Centre of Modern Art, designed and built with the help of the best Siberian and international artists. 

I want it to be not only a gem of the city's architecture, like the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao in Spain, but a centre of attraction for all creative forces of Novosibirsk and Siberia. 

Siberian Centre of Contemporary Art,, 38 Deputatskaya street, Novosibirsk

Comments (13)

brilliant job Anna!!
Tim, UK
19/08/2012 15:45
'Rodina' is a very well done exhibition indeed. As for it being prohibited....honestly. its known so well that there is no better way to heat up the interest to smth than to prohibit it
Sofia, Milan
13/08/2012 22:58
wish your centre website was in english
i dont speak russian, Denmark
12/08/2012 23:39
Maybe its Siberia but this is not art !
Klaus G, Hamburg
12/08/2012 00:30
Fun. Not how I imagined Siberia to be.
Eamonn, Limerick
12/08/2012 00:27
like the picture of Anna, and that hilarious front page image...!
Tanya, Zug
11/08/2012 15:21
love picture with dancing ladies and men in their military uniforms...
Berg, Norway
11/08/2012 12:54
sorry for my English, just wanted to say thank you to people like Anna for not being intimidated by people who opposed her
Dina, Russia
11/08/2012 12:41
Really interesting information and good luck anna you deserve success .....ignore stupid comments like tina's, plz
Aileen, Den Haag
11/08/2012 01:09
Dasha Zhukova of Siberia? interesting read, though, and great pictures... I would like to visit this Rodina exhibition now i've read the story
me, UK Uk UK
11/08/2012 00:47
rich husband hey?! this is the answer
Tina, O
11/08/2012 00:29
Siberia so much didnt mean the modern art to me...I've only heard about Dasha Zhukova and the likes of Garage centre in Moscow. Anna seems an incredibly level headed person. I'm a mother of one... and some days I can hardly get myself off the bed, leaving aside developing own arts centre. and you've got five children...!
Zoe, Perth
11/08/2012 00:27
thank you Anna, I share your point completely about having a freedom of choice on what to see, and what to make out of it. Have you heard of British association of Naive artists? They might quite like to get in touch with you and see what the brilliant Siberian artists are doing. Wishing you luck and only wish your website was in English, too - I'd like to be reading the updates
Peter J, Cornwall
11/08/2012 00:22

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