Curatorial authority and mediation of culture: Moscow art exhibitions 1974–1993

2019-11-27T14:35:30Z (GMT) by Marina Maximova
This thesis offers a critical history of curation in Moscow in the period between 1974 and 1993, arguing that the history of curation can be used as a lens through which to examine how culture is negotiated during a period of social change and transformation. By making use of oral history and primary archival research, the thesis locates the beginnings of a particular approach to curating that emerges in the social and cultural context of late Soviet Russia. The thesis challenges the commonly held view among scholars that contemporary forms of curating emerged in the wake of Mikhail Gorbachev’s liberalisation policies of the late 1980s and the corollary dissolution of the USSR. Rather than viewing the development of curation as a product of ‘unofficial’ culture, this thesis argues that it was part of a wider and more sequential process rooted in the reshaping of public life starting in the Brezhnev era. Although the term kurator was absent in the Soviet art context until the early 1990s, the thesis uncovers a set of ‘curatorial’ concerns about the negotiation of the process of communication between art and its publics. The history of exhibitions therefore is seen as a forum comprised by the dynamic interactions between artists, their works, art institutions and their different publics. To illustrate this, the thesis introduces a typology of five curatorial roles in the late Soviet period: gatekeeper, impresario, tusovshchik, tastemaker and auteur. Each avatar represents a new phase in understanding of art publics and the modes of communication that they require.