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Article

Turning The Pushkin Museum into a ‘Russian Tate’: Informal Creative Labour in Transitional Cultural Economy (the Case of Privately Funded Moscow Art-centres)

International Journal of Cultural Studies. 2019. Vol. 22. No. 2. P. 281-297.

This paper investigates creative work that now takes place in newly-established cultural institutions in Moscow non-governmental MoCAs and art-centres situated in refurbished Soviet buildings where mostly defunct, socialist-era factories had been located. The exploration of creative work in Russian art-centers is of particular interest for the debates on creative labour because it promises to record the transition of contemporary art market from Soviet cultural monopoly to the market economy in the conditions of the real-time formation of new informal standards of cultural production. The present paper evaluates what informality does mean within these new standards of creative work organization. Although the new art-centres have declared that they will produce culture ‘in a new and innovative way’, they still preserve in their functioning many residues of the ‘old system’ such as the practices of ‘blat’, favour-swapping and clientelism, wages-in-pockets, pilfering and dubious sales of art collections. The paper is based on an empirical study conducted in 2016 and includes 25 in-depth interviews with cultural workers employed full-time and 20 live observations in offices and exhibition areas of the art-centres.