The Only Place Where One Can Feel Connected to an International Context and Still Speak Russian: Hybrid Creative Work in Post-Soviet Contemporary Art Institutions
This chapter focuses on the hybrid creative labor of managers in Moscow-based contemporary art institutions. The Russian context is of interest because its young contemporary art market is still transitioning from the Soviet cultural monopoly to an open-market economy, and it, therefore, lacks established standards of cultural production, especially in the case of institutional organizations. The research examines Moscow’s new private centers and contemporary art museums, which were founded in the late 2000s. Conceived as Russian versions of the Tate or Guggenheim, these institutions offer workers and their visitors the unique experience of belonging to the international art world in the center of Moscow. In this context, creative work organization is filled with negotiations and experiments, forming an ideological battlefield where both neoliberal creative entrepreneurialism and the Soviet heroization of work, such as praise for the new Stakhanovites, can be encountered. This chapter is based on a 2016 ethnographic study composed of 25 in-depth interviews with full-time cultural workers and 20 observation visits by the researcher to the art centers’ offices and exhibition areas.