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Moscow’s new GES-2 arts centre delays grand opening to 2021

Coronavirus uncertainty postpones Ragnar Kjartansson exhibition, but power plant museum still aims to welcome locals this year

This article was amended on 4 May to clarify that GES-2 plans to open to local audiences in 2020, but Ragnar Kjartansson’s Santa Barbara exhibition will be delayed until March 2021.

A rendering of the vast contemporary arts centre, designed by Renzo Piano Courtesy of Renzo Piano Building Workshop

The grand opening of GES-2, a former power plant near the Kremlin that the billionaire Leonid Mikhelson is transforming into a contemporary arts centre, has been postponed from September until March 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Mikhelson had announced the original opening date at a press conference last autumn with the architect Renzo Piano, who redesigned the 41,000 sq. m venue, and the Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson. The artist's five-month exhibition based on the 1980s American soap opera Santa Barbara, which was expected to inaugurate GES-2 this autumn, will now take place in March 2021, according to Teresa Mavica, the director of Mikhelson’s V-A-C Foundation.

Mavica says that “due to global uncertainty” about the course of the pandemic, the private museum is planning to open gradually and “without fuss”, with an initial focus on its local audience. GES-2 will offer Muscovites a “truly public place” to re-establish human contact and trust after this period of “self-isolation, social distancing and perpetual life online”, she believes.

A spokeswoman for the V-A-C Foundation adds: "We are in every way still intent on opening [GES-2] in some capacity this current year."