small states on un-certain stereotypes

Interview with Evgeny Umansky
Artistic Director of the Kaliningrad Branch of the National Center for Contemporary Art
Kaliningrad, Russia

Kaliningrad, August 2009

RITA CANAREZZA – Could you tell us about contemporary art before and after 1991, here and in Russia?
EUGENY UMANSKY – Contemporary art in Russia, particularly in Kaliningrad, was in an embryonic state before 1991. While Moscow was beginning to establish itself to some degree, that wasn’t true for Kaliningrad. The idea of contemporary art gained institutional recognition with the creation of the Center for Contemporary Arts, in the early ’90s. Only after this did a tangible, credible art scene emerge. We know only a few distinguished Russian curators. Viktor Misiano, Leonid Bazhanov, Joseph Backstein, and Andrey Erofeev were the most active and enterprising figures of the time, and they promoted creative activity and artistic projects in Russia and abroad. Contemporary art in Russia definitely began its development starting with the center. Now we are trying to change the situation. Living in Kaliningrad, we are working to say something about our specific qualities compared to what can be defined as contemporary Muscovite art. We are different due to our regional position as an enclave and our greater integration with the European Community. (interview extract)