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A Veteran Art Force at the Russia National Pavilion
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A Veteran Art Force at the Russia National Pavilion

Picture of Danai Molocha
Updated: 27 January 2016
Vadim Zakharov, a leading figure of Russian Conceptualism, makes a comeback at this year’s Venice Biennale as the sole resident of the country’s National Pavilion. Curated by Udo Kittelman, another giant figure on the European art circuit who is the current Director of State Museums in Berlin, Zakharov reclaims Russia’s position in the international avant garde, both as a great creative force and as an invaluable theorist and thinker.

The Russian National Pavilion, designed by renowned local architect Alexei Schusev, is one of the oldest ones at the Giardini. In recent years, however, it has shown signs of new life. Most recently, during 2012’s Venice Architecture Biennale, the pavilion was entirely covered in QR codes, coming to life as an edgy, interactive 21st century i-city and i-land that turned it into a must-see for the inquisitive Biennale crowd. This year, Vadim Zakharov (b. 1959) makes a Venice comeback to pick up where his sumo-wrestling project left off in 2001; here, his long career as a radical conceptualist and thinker becomes the new point of attraction.


The aim of this year’s Russian Pavilion is, according to the Commissioner Stella Kasaeva, the ‘to bring Russian art out of isolation and secure for it the attention that it deserves at the highest international level’. Hence putting the Pavilion in the hands of a trusted avant-gardist and theorist seems like a wise choice. In conjunction with widely acclaimed German curator Udo Kittelman — the first foreign curator in the Russian Pavilion’s history — the show is bound to reflect both the artist’s prolific creativity as well as the general radicalism and advancement of contemporary European spirit.


Keen to explore the metaphysical and the unconscious, Zakharov imbues all of his work with double meaning, developing his own artistic lingo. Through a Dadaist/Surrealist maze of concepts and references, he seems obsessed with continuity. Pastor Zond Editions, the seemingly more grounded part of his work, consist of sixty titles, themselves often integrated in his artistic projects, or meant to complement them.


The artist broke into the Russian scene at the end of the 1970s, working both individually and as part of several avant garde collectives. Apart from his participation in the 49th Venice Biennale (2001), he took part in the Russia! exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York (2005). In 2009 he won the prestigious Kandinsky Prize. In the words of the curator and long-time collaborator Udo Kittelman, his work ‘…is marked by a unique outlook and independence of artistic thought. His constant role as thinker and protagonist of the Moscow Conceptualist movement from the end of the 1970s remains a hallmark of his work right up to the present’. And the present, in the eyes of Zakharov, is always a new adventure.


Russian Team

Artist: Vadim Zakharov

Commissioner: Stella Kasaeva.

Curator: Udo Kittelmann.

Venue: Pavilion at Giardini



By Danai Molocha


Images courtesy: Vadim Zakharov1, 2, 3, 4.