Is it right to cancel Russian artists?

by AryanArtnews
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After announcing the dismissal of Valery Gergiev, a well-known star conductor and supporter of Putin, from the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, Maximilian Mayer, a radio station in BR Clasique, Bavaria, said, “Art is a bridge, not a weapon. It should work. ” The end of Gergiev’s many other prestigious European posts soon continued, paving the way for a coordinated wave of cultural sanctions on Russian musicians, performers and artists.

Throughout the western world, there is an amazing unity among the arts communities in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. As Soviet-born conductor Semyon Bychkov told me, “Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, we have never seen this kind of unity in a way to recognize what is happening. . ”

Powerless in other ways, the world of art is doing everything in its power to express its anger by focusing on the Russians in the midst of them. Many key figures have been resigned or dismissed, and performances, exhibitions, or film screenings have been cancelled. Celebrities of all nationalities voiced during long-term planned visits, including a visit to the Royal Opera House in London, Bolshoi.

Within Russia itself, there was a series of significant resignations. Among them is Elena Kovalskaya, director of the Moscow State Meyer Hold Center Theatre. He took him to Facebook and described her departure with extraordinary boldness.

Perhaps most notably, Bolshoi music director Tugan Sokhiev resigned last week, and his parallel position at the Toulouse Capitol de Capitol National Theater in France, as the latter clarifies his stance to him. When asked, he said he had put him in an “impossible” position about the invasion of Ukraine. Instead of blaming Putin for his actions, he left both posts.However, the status of Bolshoi, the center of Russian culture AffairThis will be an important move.


That’s all about the ideal of art as a “bridge”. In fact, art has always been somehow weaponized. However, boycotting Russian artists and forcing them to express their condemnation of war could have some impact, especially on the Kremlin leaders, who are not affected by international stigma. do you have?

Moscow Mayor Sergeisobianin, Chairman of Putin and Leonid Mikhelson of the VAC Foundation at the GES-2 House of Culture in Moscow last December © Mikhail Metzel / Pool / Tass

Russian pianist Alexander Melnikov is not optimistic. “I know how my country works,” he says. “When pressed against a wall, Russians only gather more closely around leadership.” He states that discrimination against Russians in art is “not positive, but strictly negative in practice.” I am. In Russia, he says, these actions encounter anti-Western screams, “Let’s see what they are doing.” Add fuel to the fire with an anti-Western feel. He points out the fact that Gergiev, who returned to his hometown, was welcomed by the authorities as a patriot and hero.

Others who question the value of the current reaction in the art world are the internationally acclaimed Ukrainian artists Ilya and Emilia Kabakov (long-based in New York), who have “long-based New York-based” cultural sanctions. I don’t believe it, “he said, citing his belief in the power of culture. The connection when a politician fails.

Some people are uncertain about the power of art in such situations. Artists Kirill Savchenkov and Alexandra Savchenkov, who withdrew from the Russian pavilion at the upcoming Venice Biennale, said on Instagram: “It’s not the right time for me to play and make music,” said Anna Netrebko, a star soprano who has shown support for Putin in the past and canceled all future performances.

Instagram post by Russian artist Kirill Savchenkov

Both Melnikov and Bychkov point out that collateral damage is the same as in other wars. Demanding some form of loyalty from an individual who is at risk of losing his job has led to an unpleasant response to McCarthyism and is increasingly worried about targeting innocent artists meaninglessly. One example is Alexander Malofiev, a 20-year-old pianist. Canada was canceled last week for reasons other than his nationality.

Bychkov, now 69, left the Soviet Union in 1975 and speaks eloquently about possible mistakes, even if he had a good intention. “we [the arts community in the west] I’m doing everything I can — and I’m doing certain things that I shouldn’t do. As an example, he cites the recent decision of the Polish National Opera to cancel the production of Mussorgsky. Boris Godunov Because “the opera is silent at such times”. This is what Bychkov says, “I shook my spine and sent it.” He explains that the point of the work is about the dangers of dictatorship and dictatorship — and he also comes to the big climax with the cry of “people are silent.”

Wearing a black jacket and white tie, Bychkov conducts his orchestra

Soviet-born conductor Semyon Bychkov in 2018 © Getty Images

Instead of canceling it, the phrase “they should perform this opera 10 times a day!” And “people are silent” resonate widely. The terrible penalties for what he said in Russia are widely publicized, and Bychkov is one of those who pay homage to the extraordinary courage of those who do so. Among them are Lefddan, now 77-year-old St. Petersburg’s Marie Drama Theater, and one of the world’s leading dramaturges, whose open letter to Putin ends.

Unfortunately, cancellations in places like Toronto and Warsaw are becoming more and more common every day. However, many major institutions are taking a more balanced approach. At the Royal Opera House in London, CEO Alex Beard reveals that individuals will never be targeted solely at their nationality. “Russian and Ukrainian players sit next to each other in the orchestra,” he said, “there is no way to discriminate against the Russian people.”

But those who are in an official position with respect to the Russian government are another matter. “There is no moral way to host a public company, even if it does,” says Beard, referring to the cancellation of the upcoming visit by the Bolshoi. The same is true for individual artists who have been recorded in support of Putin’s actions. “As far as I know, almost every orchestra and promoter has the same policy,” he adds. “It is very important to emphasize that our problem lies in Putin’s policy, not the Russians.”


Similar impulses ignite much of the visual arts community. But there is a difference here. Even if it is not immediately obvious, there are quite a few international arts organizations under Russian ownership. Most of these produced a cautious and carefully expressed statement without actually blaming the administration’s actions.

“The human and political tragedy that is happening is absolutely relevant to everyone,” said the Cosmos Art Fair. This is a palatable statement that does not include any specific criticism. After all, Russians have been practicing for centuries to say nothing. Only Russia-owned Phillips Auction House, which has donated about £ 5.8 million to the Ukrainian Red Cross, has issued a stronger statement to “clearly condemn” the Putin administration.

A man and a woman stand in an art gallery surrounded by framed photos

Petr and Catalina Aven at the Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition in London 2018

The war also revealed that the Russian oligarchs are deeply invading the art world throughout Europe — not only as collectors and buyers, but also as donors, patrons, and even in decision-making roles. For example, the Royal Academy of Arts in London has partnered with donor and trustee Petr Aven. PetrAven is blacklisted in the EU, not the UK, and has returned donations to the current Francis Bacon exhibition.

The next important event of the international art merry-go-round is the Venice Biennale, a long oligarch playground, where the world of art is watching closely who will emerge. The giant yacht owned by Roman Abramovich is probably not in a regular mooring area. The Biennale bans all Russians with formal relationships and the Russian pavilion will be canceled after the resignation of the artist and his curator.

Meanwhile, life is dramatic for Ukrainian pavilion organizers and co-curators Borys Filonenko, Lisaveta German and Maria Lanko. Finally, the news is that the 9-month-old German was still in his Kyiv apartment, waiting for his baby to arrive. Meanwhile, Ranko decided to leave the capital through western Ukraine, using 72 bronze-cast funnels that are part of the kinetic sculpture. It is called the “fountain of depletion”. “Aqua alta” by pavilion artist Pablo Makov. Makov has been resolutely staying in Kharkov until the past few days when Russian bombardment was too intense.

The presentation at the art gallery features four people from the art world, two men and two women.

Borys Filonenko, Lisaveta German, Maria Lanko and Pavlo Makov announce project of Ukrainian pavilion at this year’s Venice Biennale © Valentyn Kuzan / Courtesy of Katya Pavlevych

Still, surprisingly, the organizers have determination and hope. Their latest communiqué states: It is important to show our achievements to the world when Russia is challenging the pure right to the existence of our culture. “

Other Ukrainian figures are also fighting cultural barricades, especially those in the country’s thriving music scene. Successful international DJ Olga Korolova has been kicked out of Chernihiv’s destroyed home, but is working to harness the reach of her social media to spread the truth about the situation, especially to Russian fans. is. “I’m shocked that the Russian people aren’t seeing the truth,” she told the BBC’s Mark Savage. She said, “My fans from Russia said,” It’s not true. It’s a lie. All your posts are lies. “They don’t want to see it. “

After all, can any of these strongly felt reactions influence the progress and outcome of the war? Semyon Bychkov answers the question quite poetically. “When you throw a stone into the water, the ripples disappear, but the vibrations reach the other side. You can’t measure it, but it happens.” Alex Beard said, “The act of solidarity and regime sanctions I believe it is cumulative and systematic. The important thing is to stand together .. .. No one makes a difference, but it does affect over time. “

Jan Dalley is an FT art editor

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