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AboveArt's interview with Artem Mirolevich

One of a few contemporary Russian artists whose works have commercial success in the United States, Artem Mirolevich promotes Russian art abroad while making it more recognizable and prominent. Artem has done more than 100 exhibitions around the world including #ArmoryShow and #MiamiArtBasel.

Each of his artworks immerses us into a new world, influenced by his cultural heritage, his life experience and vision.

Investigating main problems of philosophy and contemporary society, his works could be called prophetic, affecting the inner human essence.

Above Art: How would an artist from Russia become successful abroad and get into galleries in the US?

Artem Mirolevich: To begin with, of course, lots of talented Russian artists spark curiosity abroad, but there are several difficult moments. First of all, Russian government doesn’t provide any institutional support for the artists abroad, in the United States in particular, so they have no one to count upon. Many artists from Post-Soviet space ask me to help with promotion, but the reality is that, on the local level, there are lots of sponsors that are ready to help artists, however, private commercial galleries are very difficult to convince to bring in a good artist because they are interested in both the artwork and the artist himself. This is where the second moment arises: the identity of the artist. Galleries look at who the artist is and what he can give them. Galleries need bright, charismatic personalities who can easily become media personas and attract media attention to their exhibitions. At the moment, the Russian artist represents and sponsors himself, thus has little chance in this competitive market. I believe that in order to sell Russian artworks abroad, it is necessary to create a certain “Russian Pavilion,” which would centralize and promote Russian artists collectively. Until 2007, the Ministry of Culture supported Russian artists, but after the financial crisis, unfortunately, the funding had stopped. Upon realizing that we were not getting any help for Russian art abroad, I began to actively promote it myself. I had neither the resources nor the reputation of the Ministry of Culture, so I went the other way: I turned to Ernst Neizvestniy (at that time, one of the most famous Russian-speaking artists living and working in the USA), and with his personal support, we organized 10 exhibitions of contemporary art, which had taken place over four years. Some of the artists who were also deeply involved in this project are Igor Molochevsky, Den Porvatkin, and Sasha Meret.

Several shows were done at the most important art fairs, such as The Armory Showin New York and Miami and Art Basel Week in Switzerland.Kolodzei Foundation provided tremendous support for the Russian Pavilion atThe Armory Show. Many thanks to Gala Kovachnina who generously hosted us at Gala Cotemporaryin Miami and Natasha Akhmerova who helped in Zurich. All of the exhibitions were organized on a voluntary basis, but, unfortunately, this big project was ended. Yes, I received lots of gratitude in my address, but apart from that, I wasn’t able to get anything out of it. I had an expectation that a large community would gather to jointly promote art, but to my regret, no one had any interest in that. Galleries are only interested in the sales of certain artworks, and after they are sold, many authors simply disappear from the market.

I then changed my direction to ArtCosmos. The niche is much bigger because the project represents the artists from various countries, the ones who are interested in science. We did a show and a panel discussion with world renowned scientists and artists in Barcelona, in collaboration with QuoArtist, an international non-profit organization that establishes connection between art, science and technology, and Espronceda Art Center, an innovative international platform and multi-disciplinary environment for artists. This is kind of a mix of art and science. Very soon, on May 4, my exhibition on global warming and environmental protection will be held in Venice, as a part of the Venice Biennale.

Above Art: You are traveling a lot, participating in various events and actively promoting contemporary art yourself, but in what direction do you think it is going and what are the main trends?

Artem Mirolevich: Since the last economic crisis (meaning the financial crisis of 2008 - ed.), Contemporary art has definitely become better. It was cleared of falsehood, artificiality and pomposity, which, actually, had allowed to sell artworks for huge money. More real art has come to life, in fact, in all fields.

Right now, I began to take more interest in mixed media arts. Over the last 3-5 years, technologies have reached such level allowing to fully render both the meaning and the visual aspects of the author’s idea, cutting off the amateurs who create low-quality products with outdated technology but position their works as highly conceptual, overshadowing real professionals who have invested an incredible amount of energy into their product. It is fair that these works are very expensive. From the perspective of a person directly within the art world, I can tell what the process looks like: it is necessary to create an idea, but the idea without implementation is practically meaningless, therefore, it should be possible to technically implement this idea, through drawing, painting, multimedia installation, sculpture or any other technology, and then, bring it to the viewer, while retaining some individuality, for example, humor.

Above Art: We noticed that, at the moment, installation is becoming an increasingly popular form of art. It is difficult to imagine any major exhibition without it.

Artem Mirolevich: On a global scale, installation became popular quite a while ago. Galleries and museums gladly keep them in their collections. As an art form, installation has recently reached a new level of quality, unprecedented earlier, and perhaps because of this, its popularity has begun growing both among professionals and ordinary people. If we talk Contemporary art, I think that today, street art is the most honest, most altruistic and fresh, which, in turn, could also be an installation.

I often attend grand contemporary art events, including Burning Man, and I consider it as a cultural phenomenon, which allows us to see realart. By the way, last year, there was an installation, very successful in my opinion, in the form of a popular Russian fairytale object “ИзбушканаКурьихНожках” (literally, “the Hut on Chicken Legs”). I would even dare to say that it was my favorite last year. It is a pity that most art objects are seen only by those who come to the Burning Man festival.

As we know, at the end of the festival, the majority of art objects are burned yet there are those that remain, mostly the metal ones. These objects are getting sold and could be then found in completely unexpected places so it’s hard to realize that they had once been a part of such grand festival as Burning Man.

Above Art: Would you want to create art objects for Burning Man?

Artem Mirolevich: I haven’t yet worked for this festival specifically, but I would love to do this and I am working in this direction. I have a project in mind, which I hope to realize in the next few years, and, hopefully, one day my works will be presented at Burning Man so that even Russian public could admire them.

Above Art: Please tell us about your work and projects.

Artem Mirolevich: I’ve just had an exhibition at SCOPE. Another exhibition Book Thiefis currently taking place in Williamsburg at Figureworks Gallery. In the near future, I will have two more exhibitions, one in Venice in May and one more in Japan in September.

In the first week of March, the largest art fair The Armory Showtraditionally opens in New York, along with around 20 venues, each with its own character and approach to art. For example, such art fair as Art on Paperpresents the works that are done on paper or out of paper. The Armory Showis unique because artworks could be viewed closely there, unlike in museums where they are located on permanent basis. SCOPE Art Fairpresents the works of the living artists aged from 20 to 40 years old. It’s an iconic place that you need to visit at least once in your life, before you turn forty (laughs). All galleries and museums of New York are getting ready for this month way in advance so, in early spring, the whole city comes to life. It is really fun, grand and beautiful!

Above Art: Which and how many works did you present at your solo exhibition at Scope?

Artem Mirolevich: I presented my absolutely new works, which I had been working on for the past two years. In my works, I employ such technique as collage. When creating, I use my own works, and since I am quite seriously involved with etching, I often use my engravings as the basis for the collage. Besides this, I use old photographs that I found or bought, sea charts, and various items collected during travels and exhibitions. This is a kind of my visual journal. The works are quite bright and funny, which contrasts with my early work. Part of the works were presented at the Scope Art Fair while others are currently exhibited at the Figureworks Gallery, which is located in Brooklyn in the Williamsburg area. Therefore, if you had attended both events, you would have seen all my new works.

Above Art: Please tell us about your exhibitions in Venice and Osaka.

Artem Mirolevich: The next big exhibition that I am doing will be held in Venice as part of the Venice Biennaleand it will open on May 4, 2019. Therefore, I invite everyone to visit. It will be truly interesting. The exhibition is devoted to the problems of global warming and there will be works of 6 artists including me. The exhibition itself is inspired by mysticism.

As part of this exhibition, a series of plenary sessions will be held with scientists and people dealing with the issue of global warming. For me, it is not simply an opportunity to show my work, but also a chance to voice my concern about this problem, the inadequate governmental action of many countries including the United States. It is a large-scale platform, an opportunity to speak out and communicate with people who are making lots of effort to showcase the existing problem. We really hope that this exhibition will help us achieve real results in solving the problem of global warming.

After Venice, I am going to Japan, to the wonderful city of Osaka. In September of this year, I will be a part of the exhibition at G-77 Gallery, and it will be no less ambitious. The exhibition takes place in a two-story gallery, with its own garden, which, of course, is decorated in Japanese style.

I invite everyone and I will be very happy to see you at the exhibitions!

Art Above: Thank you for the invitation, we will be happy to come! Do you plan to organize an exhibition in Russia or the Post-Soviet space?

Artem Mirolevich: I participated in the 6th Moscow Biennaleof Contemporary Art (with the “25 kadr” Gallery). I really liked that experience, and I will gladly come to Russia with my exhibition. I am interested in doing an exhibition in Yerevan because I have relatives in Armenia, although I have never been there myself. I am also planning to do an exhibition in Tbilisi. Perhaps, this will be a big tour across the Post-Soviet space.

As for Moscow and Russia as a whole, I really like how contemporary art is developing at the moment. There is a very serious support for both galleries and museums, and the artists, and I think that if this stays, then, after some time, it will definitely bear fruit. And thanks to creativity of Russian and Post-Soviet artists, this will happen even faster.

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