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Tate Modern is our model, says director of Pushkin museum

Maria Loshak seeks industrial space for Modern and contemporary art satellite in Moscow

Moscow. The director of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Marina Loshak, wants to emulate the Tate in London and create a Pushkin Modern in Moscow, possibly in a former industrial building or even a power station. She has been seeking the advice of her peers, including Nicholas Serota, the director of the Tate. She also plans to borrow more works from international private collectors.

Loshak said that creating Pushkin Modern is part of the institution's strategic plan. “The development of the Tate in the broad sense of the word—how it works for people, how it develops as a museum—is a kind of model,” she said.

The main Pushkin museum buildings are near the Kremlin, but Loshak would like to see Pushkin Modern in an industrial space, possibly a garage designed by Konstantin Melnikov near Moscow’s Kazansky railway station or an architecturally striking former power station. Pushkin Modern would have a different role from other institutions in Moscow, she said. It would take a “well-balanced, very judicious, non-experimental approach”, grounded in scholarly research.

Loshak’s plan comes as Moscow’s art scene is changing. The National Center for Contemporary Arts is due to move to an impressive new home in the city designed by Dublin-based Heneghan Peng Architects. The collector Shalva Breus, founder of the ArtChronika Foundation and Kandinsky Prize, is transforming the Stalin-era Udarnik cinema into a museum. And Dasha Zhukova wants the Garage Center for Contemporary Culture in Gorky Park to become a museum, Loshak said.

Pushkin Modern would focus on “the end of the 20th century and contemporary art”, she said, including works by artists who are already “absolute classics, absolute authorities, people who have already entered the history of art”. She said it would focus on Western art, putting Russian art into a wider context.

Creating Pushkin Modern would require new acquisitions. While there are no details yet on potential purchases, the Russian culture minister Vladimir Medinsky said recently that the federal government is allocating a record Rb1bn ($27m) for acquisitions for Russia’s museum collections.

Loshak was appointed by Medinsky last July to take over the reins of the Pushkin from Irina Antonova who ran the Pushkin for 52 years. Antonova was given the title of president of the museum. Loshak and Antonova often appear together at news conferences and ceremonial events.

New architectural competition

Antonova’s dream project, for which the Russian government allocated Rb22bn ($604m), was to transform the area around the museum’s main building into a cultural quarter or “museum town”. Norman Foster was appointed as the architect in 2009 but the project stalled, leading to his withdrawal last year. “It’s supposed to take eight years,” Loshak said. “I’ll be happy if we manage to complete most of it in eight.”

The museum announced last month that it had drawn up a technical brief for a new architectural competition with the consultants Avesta Group. “We plan to develop our big museum in width and breadth,” said Loshak, who has a goal of attracting three million visitors a year.

Meanwhile, the Pushkin’s Museum of Private Collections, which is next door to the main building, was due to reopen as we went to press after an expansion project. It is in a newly renovated annex of the pre-revolutionary mansion that has housed the private collections branch since 2005. The private collections museum, one of Antonova’s showcase projects and part of her vision for the museum complex, first opened in 1994. The next exhibition will tell the story of the owners of private collections, showing how they lived surrounded by their art, she said.

The once furtive world of Soviet collectors is changing, Loshak said. Today’s Russian collectors “do not differ from Western collectors at all”, she said. “They buy as much as them, buy things that are as important, they have the same ambitions and many are thinking of opening their own museums.”

The director revealed the Pushkin has been holding talks with collectors in the West, China and Japan as well as Russia. “Any cultural exchanges, especially between museums, do so much to improve not just the diplomatic climate, but the overall relations between countries and cultures,” she said. “This is such an important sphere where any political questions are softened.” Loshak was speaking shortly before relations between Russia and the West deteriorated over the Crimea crisis, which could make international loans harder to negotiate.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Tate Modern is our model, says director'