Margarita Pushkina, founder of Cosmoscow
It all began with an open discussion on how the future is already here and how art is shaping it. Then came questions, and Margarita answered it dutifully, with the care for details she puts into everything she does.
This interview is enlightening because :
• I was once again amazed by the strong and creative female leaders I meet in Russia
• It is a very good illustration of the Russian relationship with time : quicker, brisker and even faster if you can
• It reminds us that childhood dreams are to be considered with great care
How were you interested in art in the first place and how did you end up creating the fair 8 years ago ?
It all came from personal interest. The official story is that we were building our house with my husband so I got interested in architecture and architects. Then my background in finance got me into managing Project Classics magazine (an architecture magazine). I began meeting all these great and interesting people, talking about architecture and art. I got the virus and went to study art history. At the same time, as the house was finished, I started buying artworks and began collecting for a very common motive.
Then I remembered that this interest may have been there for a long time. When I was a small girl, I took a school notebook and began collecting artistic pictures that I would stick down. During the Soviet time there were not much of it, and even less art history books. So I made my own catalogue from what I found. Like a secret wish list of a collection.
While buying artworks, I kept studying. I went to fairs and biennales; I met and talked to artists I was interested in; I built friendships with artists and gallerists. It was like Arty FOMO (fear of missing out) and I was travelling everywhere.
So much that I once met Ekaterina Degot (famous art critic and curator) at the South London Gallery to see the work of an Israeli video artist. She was very surprised to see me there and asked : “I know why I am are, I am a art professional. But you, what are YOU doing here ?”.
I do believe that when you are interested in art, no matter how far you have to go, you should be everywhere and not miss anything that interests you.
How did you happen to create Cosmoscow ? What was your motivation to open the fair ?
I couldn’t even imagine or dream some years ago that I would organize such a project. And even so, I would not have been aware that such a huge project is so energy-consuming.
But it happened almost by chance. At this time (2009), Moscow art professionals and gallerists were saying that the city lacked fairs and a real art platform for contemporary art market.
After the first edition in 2010, I understood that the project was not only about loving art but also about project management and all the consequences. But most of all, I understood that I had a responsibility towards the artistic scene.
And to honor this responsibility, I have to be a very good professional both about art and business management. I was lucky that my education helped me launch the project, but I still have to know and understand everything if I want it to be well done. Cosmoscow made me trust my intuition and gave me confidence in my position of an insider/outsider of the art world.
And since the 1st edition, has the situation been evolving for contemporary art in Russia ?
Now, people tend to think of contemporary culture as a lifestyle. They understand that being cultivated is the key to interact in society. When being interested in contemporary art, you get to understand the world better.
At the same time, creativity is everywhere, we live longer and have more time to enjoy the world as a very prolific place. That makes it important to have access to good quality art. Here lies Cosmoscow’s duty: to help people understand the quality of contemporary art.
In your opinion, is there such thing as a Russian artistic identity ?
This is a difficult question. To me, there are two kinds of artists: those whose work is the expression of a specific culture or nationality, and those whose work is global. Artists from different countries make “global art” and it is fine by me: there is no injunction to follow your national mold.
I am positively surprised by the good quality of work by young artists from Russian regions. They are high potentials that we love to promote. As far from Moscow and international scene as they may grow, these artists are cool and master the global art language.
One good example is Taus Makhacheva, Cosmoscow 2018 Artist of the Year. She studied in London and came back home to work and live between Dagestan, Moscow and London. Her projects are somehow connected with her homeland but she uses all the tools and tricks of contemporary art. She succeeds in being both a citizen of the world and a real ambassador of Dagestan.
What could be done next to make Moscow an unavoidable city on the contemporary art map ?
We make everything happen quickly to get closer to the future.
The last 10 years have been amazing in terms of art infrastructures in Moscow. And the city’s influence is growing with them and as fast as we are building them. And interest in art will follow the number of events. This year, we celebrate the Garage’s 10 year anniversary. Next year the V-A-C Foundation designed by Renzo Piano will open, Rem Koolhaas will take over the Tretyakov Gallery. This is all good news.
We are also trying to build trust and credibility toward contemporary art. Trust toward the market and toward art. If people understand it and have trust in it, they will buy art, New generations of Russian collectors will appear and Moscow will become their focal point. This is what we put all our strength and motivation into.
To educate people in discovering contemporary art, we work with influencers as well as with big institutions. Each year Cosmoscow has more partners. With museums, institutes and cultural centers, we create synergies to attract the widest audience and instill in them the knowledge of contemporary art.
Judging by the attitude of Cosmoscow team who is working 24/7 and the general reception of the project, we will achieve our mission: in the near future, Moscow will become an international contemporary art center and the situation will change drastically.
We are ready for it. I can even say that we do not relax to make it happen. We keep moving forward every day because so much is going on. We work hard so I believe we will succeed.
Snapshot of Cosmoscow 2017 (photo by me) :