Cosmoscow, once Russia’s premier international art fair, opens in building reportedly struck by drone last month

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Cosmoscow was Moscow’s leading international contemporary art fair until Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022. Its 11th edition opens today (until 1 October) and, for the second year running, with virtually no non-Russian galleries among its 75 participants. One exception is a Moscow gallery that has recently moved to Dubai: since the war, the emirate has become a refuge for many wealthy Russians.

It is also the second time since 2022 that the fair, which for years was based at Gostiny Dvor near Red Square and the Kremlin, has been subject to a last-minute change in venue. In July, it was announced that Cosmoscow had shifted to the Expocentre Central Exhibition Complex in Moscow’s financial district.

The Expocentre was reportedly hit on 18 August by drone strikes that Russian officials have blamed on Ukraine. The city’s mayor, Sergey Sobyanin, wrote on Telegram: “Tonight, while attempting to fly to Moscow, a drone was destroyed by air defense forces. The unmanned air vehicle (UAV) debris fell in the Expo Center area, but did not cause significant damage to the building. There were no preliminary casualties.”

Margarita Pushkina, Cosmoscow’s founder and director, did not respond to requests for comment about plans for this year’s edition.

Taking part in Cosmoscow this year is Alisa Contemporary Art Gallery, which opened in Moscow in 2020 and launched a location in Dubai this year. It will soon be shutting down its Moscow gallery. At the fair, Alisa Contemporary will offer paintings by Kirill Makarov. They are the physical version of an NFT and video series titled Unveiled, which is on display until 30 September on ioginality, a new platform. The online versions of these works carry anti-war messages that cannot be advertised in Moscow. But Bagdonaite says that showing a version of them in Moscow is vital to “support those who stay in Russia”, since “there is no activity more opposite to war than art”, adding that “there is no better place for these artworks than Russian private collections”.

Moscow’s Shaltai Editions, founded by Valeria Rodnyanskaya, an art collector who pioneered limited edition silkscreen prints in Russia, is using this year’s Cosmoscow to transition to a new name, Set Projects. The gallery changed hands earlier this year: Rodnyanskaya’s husband, the influential Kyiv-born, Oscar-nominated film producer, Alexander Rodnyansky, has been declared a “foreign agent” for speaking out against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. A Moscow court ordered his arrest in absentia for “spreading false information” about the Russian army.

Michael Tsarev, a Russian financier now based in Munich, who worked in Kyiv from 2011 to 2021, for companies owned by the billionaire Ukrainian art collector Victor Pinchuk, is participating in The Collector’s Eye exhibition at Cosmoscow and moderating a discussion. He sold part of his art collection earlier this year at Moscow’s Vladey auction house. Tsarev is a co-founder of the Ukrainian Club of Contemporary Art Collectors.

“I maintain contact with Ukrainian artists, gallerists and collectors,” Tsarev tells The Art Newspaper. “Some of them have visited me in Munich. They know that I have German nationality therefore I am not ‘the Russian’ for them. And I had never behaved like this.”

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