Meet Anna Barinova, founder of the Anna Nova Gallery and Nova Art Contest for young artists. This year Anna made a sell-out at her booth at Cosmoscow Art Fair (Moscow), which showed in Russia the exhibition by Ilya Fedotov-Fedorov about transgender transition, which is a provocative and almost forbidden theme in Russia. Anna is now presenting «Transformation as a form of resistance» by Haim Sokol till 20th of November. Here we chat to Anna about her role in the art world and the future goals for the space.
Hi Anna, how did you enter the art world?
Many things in my life were connected with art. I have always been surrounded by creative people. For example, my grandfather and uncle were artists. I have been engaged in music all my life. When I got married, my husband initiated me into the process of collecting and opened a completely new world to me. Then, the idea arose to open a contemporary art gallery. At first, I wasn’t sure if that was my path but I always liked to support creative people and help them discover their talents. Moreover, I met some people I believed in, and together we created a team. Now, looking back I see what a colossal way I had passed.
What’s your typical day like?
In the morning after I get my son ready for school, I try to take time and think about different ideas. This takes place from 8.30 to 10.30 a.m. I set myself up for the new day: a glass of warm water, some yoga, breakfast, emails or professional literature. Afterwards, I usually discuss the plans for the day with the Gallery team. I always try to solve all the major issues before 4 p.m. After that, there are either meetings or events related to my projects. Whenever I have some free time, in the evening I try to practice something new like foreign languages or public speaking.
What was the goal behind the inception of your gallery?
Our gallery was founded in 2005. We’ve opened it together with Ekaterina Andreeva, a senior researcher at the Russian Museum and a great expert in the art made by Nonconformist artists and the New Academy of Fine Arts. Ekaterina has significantly contributed to the Gallery’s establishment. In 2005, when I had just opened the Gallery, she supported me and taught me so many things. In the first several years of our operation she guided the Gallery and worked with our team – Natalya Yershova and Pavel Gerasimenko.
The Gallery’s mission is active support of unique and innovative interdisciplinary art practices, production of research-based projects and large-scale installations. In the past few years, we have expanded our activities and now aim to discover and promote young artists, who work with urgent cultural issues and challenges faced by the society today.
Today, I can say that we have managed to build a whole ecosystem of projects that are united by one mission: creation and development of talents that shape the history of contemporary art. In addition to the Gallery itself, this ecosystem includes such projects as the BOOKLET magazine, the NOVA ART Contest, as well as the Collectors’ Lounge space on the third floor of the Anna Nova Gallery. I would like to emphasize that we are constantly looking for new opportunities and ideas to achieve our goals.
How does the Anna Nova gallery invest in their artists? Can you tell us more about the Nova Art Contest and how it came about?
The Gallery mainly deals with reputed artists but we don’t forget about bright emerging talents. That’s why in 2006 Ekaterina and I established a contest of artistic projects for the Anna Nova Gallery. Since then, this competition has become a regular event, and this year it was the 8th time when we had it arranged. In due course, it has changed a lot. Initially, it was a kind of an ‘open call’ scouting for projects that the Anna Nova Gallery could use. The regulations and the very mechanism of the contest were different, and things used to be quite simple while we focused on St. Petersburg.
It had been before Facebook, when not everyone used computer mailing tools. There was no promotion, marketing or PR. The first contest received something like 70 applications but gradually we started to expand and change. We have never had much PR and yet we were receiving entries from Europe and the US.
It was after I received an Executive MBA at Skolkovo under the leadership potential development program that the contest started to change. My classmates inspired me to alter Nova Art – to extend its scale, make it All-Russian, establish a platform to bring different institutions together. We collaborate with both Russian and foreign agencies, including private and public ones, as well as galleries based in different cities.
What are you currently exhibiting?
We are currently showcasing a solo project by Haim Sokol, a reputed artist known to the artistic world. His solo projects have been exhibited at the State Tretyakov Gallery, the Moscow Museum of Modern Art, the Fabrika Creative Industries Center, the Stella Art Foundation and many other locations. Haim Sokol is a winner of Teammate (Soratnik) and Innovation (Innovatsiya) Awards. Moreover, he has made it to the Russian Investment Artistic Rating 49ART, which comprises outstanding contemporary artists below 50.
We’re going to present two parts of this project at different venues – Part 1 in our gallery, and Part 2 in a 19th century mansion. Called ‘Transformation as a Form of Resistance’, this project is dedicated to transmutations and in-between states – between human and animal, female and male, animate and inanimate, homely and creepy, past and present. At the same time, Sokol tells the audience not about biological or psychological transformations, but more about the poetic ones – transformation as a metaphor, an allegory, a mimetic assimilation. The artist works in the field of culture, turning to a variety of its manifestations like poetry, ideology, and mythology. On the one hand, his artistic images are inspired by political philosophy, and on the other – by a fairy tale.
The exhibition features painting, sculpture, video, and total installations. In his works, the artist uses all kinds of materials from dirty rags to carpets and mattresses, involving these into his game of metamorphoses.
How have you and your business had to adjust during 2020 and 2021?
Naturally, the lockdown caused some changes in the Gallery’s operation. First of all, we couldn’t hold offline exhibitions anymore. Many agencies and galleries switched to the digital format, choosing various ways of presenting their activities and sales – social networks, special platforms, mass media, newsletters etc. Our team had been working on digitalization and developing flexible control models long before the pandemic. That’s why it wasn’t too difficult for us to adjust to the new reality when we had to go digital. To a certain extent, it even promoted the work task enhancement process we had initiated. We switched to the artlogic data-base, updated our web-site, started to pay more attention to the social networks and so on.
Moreover, in 2020 our Gallery turned 15, and we wanted to throw a grand party – but the pandemic changed our plans. We had been looking for the best ways to highlight this event in the new normal and came up with an idea – we had to do something unusual. And we decided to arrange an exhibition, like a museum or a curated one. This was the Things exhibition, which we made in collaboration with our loyal collectors. In fact, we reconsidered the art collection phenomena and the figure of the collector, too. We invited a curator – Alexey Maslyaev, a researcher at the Moscow Modern Art Museum. The exhibition was a success and was even nominated for the Sergey Kuryokhin Award for Contemporary Art.
What are your future goals for the space?
Currently, we are working towards cooperation with international institutions and entrance to the global contemporary art market. Our gallery has participated in top foreign fairs such as ARCOmadrid, Vienna Art Fair, Art London, Contemporary Istanbul Art Fair, and Volta, and this year we have co-organized Valery Kazuba’s solo exhibition at a platform abroad, Shanghai Centre of Photography.
We see this first step as a strong impulse for our further development on the international stage. For example, we intend to open the Gallery’s affiliate in Paris, France. At the same time, having already established some contacts with European galleries, we are developing a strategy of collaborations in the East, including China. Our plans include even more interactions and collaborations of Russian and Chinese artists, interinstitutional interactions with Chinese museums and art centers, which will result in presenting Russian contemporary art to the Chinese audience.