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A hip place to park in Moscow

A ruined Soviet-era restaurant in Gorky Park, Moscow, is set to become the unlikely new home for one of ­Russia’s hippest arts centres, the Garage, founded four years ago by the socialite Dasha Zhukova.

Zhukova and Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas unveiled plans this week to refurbish a 1960s prefabricated concrete building that would normally have been pulled down.

“It is the most exciting and biggest change the Garage has undergone,” said Zhukova, revealing the plans at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. “I think it will be one of the greatest examples of contemporary architecture in Moscow.”

The hunt for a new building began because the lease was up on the Garage’s home in the constructivist Bakhmetevsky bus garage.

“Finding it was a random chance,” said Zhukova, partner of billionaire Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich. “A friend of mine said there was a number of completely destroyed and damaged buildings in the park and the city was looking to regenerate the park.”

Preserving the past
The Vremena Goda (seasons of the year) building has almost everything against it. Koolhaas said it was “a ruin, almost completely overgrown” on a heavily polluted site. It is also a rectangle, which is “not a very popular shape in architecture”. But the project fits into many of Koolhaas’s views about architecture and art galleries. One thing he is fighting against is size, referencing London’s Serpentine Gallery as an example of small being good.

He is against the unnecessary destruction of buildings from the 1960s and 1970s and does not like “the sterility of the white cube” in many modern galleries.

Koolhaas said much of the neglect was picturesque and he would keep much of the brickwork, tiling and mosaics. “The building is a ruin but there are still traces of decoration — traces of Russian history as a partner of the art.”

The new 5 400m2 site is due to open next year and will have galleries, a café, a shop and learning centre.

Zhukova is regularly featured in the tabloids, but there are plenty of people who would pay tribute to her achievements in establishing the Garage as a force in contemporary art. Artists scheduled to exhibit there include Antony Gormley, Christian Marclay and the performance artist Marina Abramovic.

Zhukova said the Garage would still host exhibitions rather than developing a permanent collection and her “dream” was to have a show by the American sculptor Richard Serra, who makes some of the world’s heaviest works of art. —

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Mark Brown
Professor of Political Economy at Brown University. Author of Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea, & Great Transformations. Mark Brown has over 27644 followers on Twitter.

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