Art always faces challenges. Be it censorship, fiscal barriers, or even just a pure drought of inspiration, creative athletes and wonderland executives of this eclectic sideshow extravaganza have jumped many a hurdle to bring the medium to where it is today. Yet, due to its ever-existing nature, we perhaps often take its presence for granted, and forget that even such a ubiquitous force as art can be obstructed by social events.

We can all admit that this year has been an eventful one. Faced with the unexpected arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic, we’ve had to endure constricting protocols and adapt new habits as the result. Lifestyles that we’ve previously grown accustomed to were altered, and the cultural aspects of our society that were once readily available for appreciation were rendered out of reach – and art was one of them.

Once an outlet for the maladies of the masses, the medium had experienced the effects of sickness in the most literal of ways during the events this year’s outbreak. As galleries shut, exhibitions cancelled, and concerts out of the question, 2020 presented the creative industry – which thrives on first-hand experience – with an ordeal of diabolical inconvenience to the regular lover of all things creative.

Alas, humanity prevailed, and now that the world is slowly recovering from its recent bout of illness, cultural establishments have begun to once again open their doors to those looking to fill their starved appetites for aesthetic sensory stimulation. Yet, as the general masses have been told multiple times across the news platforms, it will still be a long time before things get back to “normal” – if they ever will – and thus, much like all public spaces that we have become so used to frequenting, galleries across the globe have had to adapt new ways of displaying their works – both during and after the mass lock-downs.

Nikita Alexeev at Galerie Iragui

In light of this, Russian Art & Culture have decided to look into the “new normal” of the art world and get some brief insight from one of Moscow’s esteemed modern art galleries into current state of the subject, and its future. Speaking with gallery manager Daria Kolotovchenkova from Galerie Iragui in Moscow, Russia, we asked a few questions regarding how such establishments as hers have dealt with this experience, and this is what she had to say:

As galleries have once again began to open their doors to the public, what measures are you taking to ensure the ongoing safety of your patrons during their initial visits?

– We employ our social networks and email newsletters to constantly remind the public about the need to comply with sanitary standards in the form of wearing a mask and gloves when visiting the gallery; and also provide visitors with the opportunity to treat hands with antiseptic gel. In the first week of opening the gallery, we worked strictly by appointment, and the gallery space could host no more than 3-4 visitors at a given time. At this initial stage we have refrained from presenting new exhibitions in the typical format – in addition to foregoing opening days – and we ask guests to visit a given exhibition during the opening hours of the gallery.

How has society reacted to being able to once again visit galleries and enjoy art first hand?

– The opening of new exhibitions only confirmed that people really missed art – predominantly being in the same physical space with it.

What measures did you take during the pandemic to ensure that art lovers could have access to your collections?

Social networks have become our main platforms, through which, together with gallery artists, we embarked on carrying out a variety of projects. Among them are virtual workshops, publication of works on the “quarantine” topic, book selections from artists, and a newsletter that immerses readers in a closer acquaintance with artists and their art. An important step for the art community was, of course, active participation in online initiatives. We became the initiators and participants of the ‘not cancelled project in Russia, in support of galleries, and also took part in the online fair Fondamenta from the organizers of Artissima Torino.

Will such an event affect the approach of galleries toward the presentation of art in future? 

– Most likely more and more online initiatives will be created in addition to the already existing activities in physical reality. It’s a wonderful opportunity for young galleries to showcase their programs and express themselves, as well as for collectors to enrich their collections.

What has been the most surprising outcome of this ordeal in regard to art culture?

The amazing speed with which the art community has adapted to change is amazing: everyone quickly mastered online tools like Zoom, Google Meet etc. and immediately began to use them.

Daria’s commentary clearly outlines, that whilst it is not “out of the woods” yet, the creative plain is set for re-growth – and perhaps even the branching of its roots. For what is most endearing in this case, is how such an event has managed to bring new opportunities for dissemination and procurement of art within our social sphere. Whereas at some points in its existence, the advent of incessant online presence has often been met with scorn and accusations of cultural degradation, this year it came to the aid of culture at its twilit hours. As Daria mentions programs like the ‘not cancelled’ initiative – a platform that creates meaningful digital art events – it is clear that consumption of art via the web is set to remain an ever-expanding principle of our cultural enrichment.

It is also evident that as galleries once again unlock their gates – from small ones all the way to behemoth’s such as VDNH (The Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy) – the solidarity and diligence of artistic establishments to the adherence of such simple measures as ensuring the use of masks, hand sanitization, and adherence to scheduled visits shall lay the groundwork for the global convalescence of the art and the creative industry, and let it once again bring people together.