March 28, 2024

Russian Artists Crash the Pompidou


Russian Artists Crash the Pompidou
The Georges Pompidou Center in Paris, France, where the guerrilla exhibit took place.  DiscoA340, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

When the Pompidou Center in Paris opened on the morning of March 17, staff and visitors were not aware they were about to witness a guerrilla exhibition put on by Russian artists.

Their exhibit, or, in Russian, "action" (deistviya), took place in the museum cloakroom (to prevent allegations of trespassing), beginning at the museum's opening at 11. The exhibit, entitled "Cellule" or "cell," was organized by a Moscow artist who goes only by Maxim, and who sent out instructions to the artists on Telegram. 

Maxim's plan was for artists to place their work in one of the cloakroom's clear plastic lockers and to affix an exhibition-style label to the locker. These labels explained that all the artists were currently living in exile to protest the war in Ukraine. He had planned the exhibit for the day when polls closed in the Russian presidential election.

The artists who participated in the action, including Alisa GorsheninaFedora Akimova, and Andrei Kuzkin, chose to present works that ranged from straightforwardly political protest art to more abstract pieces. Kuzkin exhibited a diminutive figure crafted from bread, in reference to both Christian tradition and Russian prison culture. Akimova, who also helped organize the action, showed her invalid Ukrainian passport alongside her domestic Russian passport, which, as an exile, she no longer needs. 

While the cloakroom exhibit was quickly discovered and shut down by museum staff, the artists simply covered their works with coats and bags and uncovered them later that evening, when they organized for journalists to be present.

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