In 2012, Garage Museum of Contemporary Art began building an archive on the history of Russian contemporary art, which currently holds the world’s largest collection of materials on Soviet and Russian art of the postwar era. In the process of developing the archive, Garage came across several gaps of knowledge that could not be filled through the acquisition of institutional or private collections available within the country: materials relating to Soviet nonconformist art had been scattered across the world as people who were once active on the scene left the country. Today, they are accumulated in several archives run by different organizations.
Garage approached two international institutions with major archives on Soviet nonconformist art—the Zimmerli Art Museum (Rutgers University, USA) and the Research Centre for East European Studies (University of Bremen, Germany)—with the idea of collaborating on the creation of the Russian Art Archive Network (RAAN).
The development of RAAN involves the gradual digitization of Garage Archive Collection and the archives of the partner institutions. The materials are then uploaded to a database designed by Garage that integrates the scanned documents from each partners’ institutional databases.
The goal of the Russian Art Archive Network project is to create an international online platform to promote and facilitate research into postwar Russian contemporary art. Together, Garage and its RAAN partners are working to help researchers and the wider audience gain access to sources that were previously out of reach due to the specific nature of archival and museum storage. The initiative will also encourage researchers to study archives in Russia’s regions and gradually attract new institutional partners to the project.
The project’s website features an online catalogue allowing users to search the archive collections of all RAAN partners, with new materials added as digitization continues. The first documents, uploaded in December 2017, come from several archive collections at Garage. These include invitations to exhibitions, press releases, and posters from the archive of Art Projects Foundation, posters from the collections of Leonid Talochkin and Nina Zaretskaya (TV Gallery).
The website has Russian and English versions. Most of the archive’s catalogue is in Russian, with the exception of entries for archival documents and press cuttings in foreign languages, and information on exhibitions that took place outside Russia/the Soviet Union.
Garage Archive Collection is a center for the study of Russian contemporary art in an international context. The collection is continually developing thanks to gifts and acquisitions, including materials from galleries, the personal archives of artists and collectors, and the findings of Museum staff.
Over 600 personal archives, including those of Soviet Nonconformist artists, writers, and poets, provide insight into informal artistic circles in the Soviet Union and place them within the context of the international art scene from the 1950s to the 1980s.
The collection illuminates a variety of unofficial artistic activities in Moscow, St. Petersburg (Leningrad), and the former Soviet Republics, providing insight into the personal, social, and institutional conditions under which the artists worked
Typography Center for Contemporary Art is a public space in Krasnodar opened in 2012 by ZIP group and arts patron Nikolai Moroz. Its work is based on principles of cooperation, participation, and transparency. The Typography team work to develop the city’s intellectual, art, and cultural scenes, support contemporary art in Krasnodar and the region, and create a platform for dialogue on contemporary issues.
Togliatti Museum of Fine Art aims to consolidate its collection of contemporary art of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and to preserve its existing holdings of postwar art, namely Soviet art of the 1970s and 1980s and Russian art of the 1990s. The basis of the collection are works which were donated to the museum by the Directorate of Exhibitions of the Union of Artists of the USSR and the Republican Center for Art Exhibitions and Promotion of Fine Arts of the Ministry of Culture of the RSFSR. Today, the collection is supplemented thanks to gifts from artists.
Perm Museum of Contemporary Art (PERMM) was founded in 2009 by gallerist Marat Guelman, with the support of Perm Krai governor Oleg Chirkunov and senator Sergei Gordeev. For its first five years the museum was located in the former river terminal building in the historical center of the city. In summer 2014, it moved into a new building in the industrial area of Motovilikha. Initially, the museum was a central element of a major regional program to transform Perm’s cultural life through a new cultural policy, which was known colloquially as the Perm Cultural Revolution.
Garage Archive Collection expands on a daily basis with the addition of new documents, many of which are acquired with the support of Garage Education Patron, Alisher Usmanov’s Art, Science and Sport Charity Foundation.
Partnership with the Foundation has enabled Garage to acquire some of the key archives in its collection, including the video archive of Vadim Zakharov, the photographic archives of Igor Makarevich and Yuri Palmin, the archives of Sergey Chubraev and Factory of Found Clothes, and the Art Activism Archive, all of which are essential in creating a clearer picture of the history of Russian contemporary art.
The Museum’s partnership with Art, Science and Sport Charity Foundation is a good example of a horizontal connection created between an art institution and an art patron to work on socially important projects and foster positive social change.
With help from Panasonic, Garage became the world’s first museum to store its archival materials on optical discs with freeze-ray™ technology.
Using the optical data archiving system for the Russian Art Archives Network project will ensure the safe storage of Garage’s unique contemporary art archive: freeze-ray™ technology eliminates the possibility of deleting or rewriting information and offers the best ratio of erroneous bits in the industry (1.3 × 10−21). Resisting the effects of humidity, temperature, and mechanical degradation, freeze-ray™ system ensures the safe storage of data for over fifty years. In addition, the use of freeze-ray™ enables the reduction of CO2 emissions by eliminating the need for a constant power supply and air conditioning at the vault.
In 2018, Garage will continue to move towards more environmentally conscious consumption. By the end of the year, the Museum is planning to get part of its energy from renewable sources by installing Panasonic solar panels on its rooftop.