As a noted Art Person, we’re unlikely pass up an opportunity to check out Moscow’s contemporary art scene. It’s even more unlikely that we would miss the chance to hang out with the Chiplomat, now Snackistan’s top envoy to the expanding Russian empire. Combining the two activities recently proved irresistible.
On sunny and not-that-cold-by-Moscow standards Sunday, we visited Winzavod, Moscow’s contribution to the trend of transforming old communist factories into contemporary art spaces. For two ladies who appreciate Soviet industrial architecture and who like to be confronted by modern Russian aesthetics, it seemed promising
Promise unrealized, sadly. Winzavod’s space has tons of potential but is poorly laid out, marked and signed. It was hard to know what was a gallery, or a private studio or a random shop. Indeed, there didn’t seem to be all that much actual art to view. “Where is the art?” we asked ourselves more than once, which is a bad sign when you’re at a contemporary art center.
We kept our minds open in case the art was subtle. We didn’t want to let our retrograde notions of what constitutes art, especially in Moscow, cause us to miss something good.
A bearded hipster bobbed away on a phallus-shaped children’s playground toy. Was he the art? A lady hipster duckfaced her friend’s camera from a concrete staircase. It’s probably on Instagram if you want to look for it.
A sign on a photography gallery warned that potential for offense lay ahead so those under 18 should stay away. Willing to take a chance, we climbed the stairs to the gallery. The warning was 100% correct in that photos of naked women holding cats in front of their crotches was considered art by someone. “So edgy!” we catted as we exited.
Subsequent galleries failed to evoke even that strong of a reaction.
A long steel stairway led up to what seemed like an attic area of one of the more satisfying exposed-brick spaces. Only the sign “Secret Education Center,” with another 18+ warning, indicated what was at the top.
Still open-minded, we climbed the stairway to a locked frosted glass door. A young man followed us. While we mucked around a bit on the landing, trying to figure out what, exactly, we were about to enter, he rang the bell. A female voice answered via intercom (in Russian, obviously):
“Do you have an appointment?”
Was “appointment” code for something art-related? We listened carefully for a clue.
“I do,” the man responded, “but I don’t know if these two women out here do.”
The door buzzed open. No one was visible inside and there was nothing but a reception desk, four or five closed doors and a large sign for Secret Education. A second young man entered behind the first, also mentioning his appointment.
Demonstrating the high degree of curiosity and initiative that has made her the most valued member of Snackistan’s diplomatic corps, the Chiplomat pulled up the website for Secret Education on her phone.
“It’s a sex education center!” she exclaimed with some surprise.
“Wait, what? Are you sure? It could be art, you know. It would for sure be better art than anything we’ve seen so far.”
“They give handjob lessons here, according to this site.”
“Hmm. That doesn’t seem like art to me. Who really needs.. ….”
Before considering this topic any further, we went back downstairs and outside into the cold sun. She squinted at her phone again, running through the list of classes you can take. If you read Russian, check for yourself what’s on offer. If not, rest assured that the curriculum is thorough, with all the core courses you would expect as well as plenty of electives.
And because you also expect from Carpetblog valuable cultural insight you can’t get anywhere else, our staff googled “Sex Coaching Moscow” and came up with this helpful article about the topic from last year. It should simultaneously entertain and horrify you.
So, when it comes to contemporary art in Moscow, if you have to ask where the art is, look, first, for the sex education center.