"Conservation was invented at the same time as modernism."
On Wednesday, June 10, the presentation of the new building of the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art took place, which is open to visitors from today.
From the outside, the building really looks completely new - it is an ascetic parallelepiped, dressed in panels of cellular polycarbonate, with a single window-slot, passing from the long side of the facade to the short one. The translucent material unobtrusively reflects the sky and the surrounding park landscape, but does not mimic. A box for the little prince from the book of Exupery, which allows you to place any exhibition inside. What could be better for a museum of contemporary art? The raised polycarbonate panel above the main entrance gives the silhouette a little more variety, and reinforces the image of a technological shell that provides an ideal microclimate inside in all respects.
From under the panel peeps out a huge, more than nine meters in height, work
Erika Bulatova "All in our garage!" (according to curator Snezhana Krasteva, this is the largest canvas painted in Russia since the "Appearance of Christ to the people") - a cheerful, life-affirming poster in the spirit of "ROSTA Windows", revealing to an outside observer the secret of the contents of the cherished box. Perhaps this is the impression the new Garage should make on an outside observer who is unfamiliar with the history of the project.
But you can't fool us. We, of course, know that the Garage Center for Contemporary Culture, which began its journey seven years ago under the roof of the architectural monument - the Bakhmetyevsky garage of Konstantin Melnikov, now hides a sample of Soviet modernism adapted for new functions.
On May 1 this year, the center of modern culture was transformed into a museum of contemporary art, and the carefully restored skeleton of the former Vremena Goda cafe will undoubtedly become one of the most important exhibits of the new museum. Of course, the old walls, the Autumn mosaic and the precast concrete are valuable not only in their own right, but also in dialogue with the new shell and the functional interventions of the OMA designers into the existing structure of the building.
Adapting the space of the Soviet catering to a museum of modern art, according to Koolhaas, was not a big deal. “The building originally included a variety of spaces that we managed to adapt to exhibit contemporary art without making major changes to them,” he says. Indeed, all the existing walls, ceilings, columns, and even almost all the stairs were preserved. In general, we can say that the result is surprisingly little different from the project presented to the public more than three years ago (for Archi.ru, Alexandra Gordeeva wrote about this presentation in the article "Reconstruction by Koolhaas"). Of the major design decisions, only the movable mezzanine in the central foyer was canceled. But this was done not because of a lack of funds, but because the functional filling of Garage was somewhat revised after the appointment of a new chief curator, Keith Fowle, just over a year ago.
Construction began at about the same time. Koolhaas made no secret of the fact that "the main problem of the project was to formalize the property rights so that we could start." So it took less than a year and a half to convert the modernist ruins into a modern building. Such a frantic pace of construction is amazing when you consider how many sophisticated techniques and innovations have been applied. Leader
BUROMOSCOW Olga Aleksakova, who took part in the development of working documentation and supervision, said that the dilapidated floors had to be reinforced with prestressed reinforcement. Hidden in the ceilings is the climatic system - water pipes, which are supposed to heat the building in winter and cool the building in summer.At the same time, almost all engineering wiring, as promised, is hidden between two layers of the building's polycarbonate shell. The facade made of flammable polycarbonate became a separate problem - we had to get special technical conditions. “This building is a precedent,” stresses Olga. Even the plywood floors in the cafe and on the new mezzanine seemed unacceptable to many. Plywood and concrete floors, polycarbonate, steel grating flooring - an incomplete list of materials used in the "Garage", which we consider suitable only for technical and temporary structures, and certainly not suitable for such a respectable place as a museum. But for OMA (and in general for Dutch architecture), the use of cheap materials in decoration is one of the firm's techniques.
The most expensive finishing materials in the interior are undoubtedly the preserved glass tiles and glazed bricks of the Soviet cafe. They were partially removed from the walls and sent for restoration in Italy, and then carefully hoisted to their original place. However, Koolhaas did not try to recreate the original appearance of the building, the image of the "ruin" remained almost unchanged. Glazed brick from the previous temporary layer peeps out from behind the torn edges of the "Autumn" mosaic, and above the uneven brickwork of ordinary brick, which was previously hidden by the suspended ceiling, is completely left in sight. In combination with industrial modern materials, all this in some places of the building creates a completely casual, "garage" atmosphere.
Perhaps, it is still difficult to get rid of the comparison of the new "Garage" with a brand new garage made of corrugated board, where the sentimental motorist dragged the skeleton of his beloved "penny" and put it on four bricks instead of the lost wheels. He wiped the dust off the shabby seats, polished the cracked windows and wiped away a tear of emotion that had come. “Why keep this old typical junk?”, Many are perplexed. One commentator on Facebook even suggested that this Western "satiety causes an appetite for the unfinished, imperfect, wretched."
But it's not that. Koolhaas complained more than once: "the more monotonous and faceless architecture that emerged after the Second World War has few admirers and even fewer defenders." Talking about the Garage project, he developed this idea: “The movement for the preservation of heritage has always been aimed at protecting only the most beautiful, valuable and old. We have always insisted that it is also important to preserve ordinary things. So that later you can explain to your children how people used to live”.
So this building for Koolhaas is not just another building, but a manifesto. With his help, he not only conserves a fragment of typical Soviet life, but expresses his disagreement with the generally accepted concept of preserving antiquity.
Perhaps we can say that the flaw pointed out by the architect is congenital. The monument conservation movement and modernism, which emerged around the same time, were real enemies at first, and continued to be for a century. The struggle went on with varying success, and not only in the USSR. For example, in West Berlin in the 1970s, the facades of buildings of the eclectic era were massively "simplified". Now, when the modernism of the twentieth century has become dilapidated and itself has become a historical style (that is, it has lost the fight), perhaps it is time to revise the concept of preservation, until the architectural routine of half a century ago became a pure memory.
Not everyone agrees that such a manifesto is compatible with a full-fledged museum of contemporary art. Valentin Dyakonov from Kommersant believes that the new Garage cannot be considered “a modern exhibition area, convenient for showing art of different scale and meaning”. “Koolhaas, the critic continues, personally wrote a concept for the development of the future“Garage”: the former restaurant where our fathers and grandfathers sat with a glass of beer, as a museum, is suitable only for field research of the socialist past.”
At first glance, it is difficult to argue with him.Is it by chance that most of the expositions that open the new museum are addressed precisely in this era: they talk about the history of Soviet contemporary art, about the American exhibition in 1959 in Sokolniki, about Russian cosmism, etc. Even the forty-six-year-old Rikrit Tiravaniya in his latest project "Is Tomorrow a Question?" builds a dialogue with the past, referring to the work of the 1970s Czechoslovak artist Julius Koller and treating visitors with nostalgic dumplings.
But today and yesterday is also a question! Willingly or not willingly (sorry - did not ask!), Building a new shell around the "old" modernist building, Koolhaas emphasizes the contradictory, oxymoric nature of the phrase "museum of contemporary art". A museum, by definition, is an institution engaged in collecting, studying, storing and exhibiting cultural objects, that is, what has already been done, of the past. Modernity, by definition, is events that are happening at the moment. Contemporary art museums everywhere exhibit the works of long-dead artists who are considered "modern" only by inertia. Along with them, the works of our contemporaries also fall into the collections of museums, but they are kept in the museum, dried up, and become part of the history of art. Garage is no exception in this line. Previously, as a center of contemporary culture, he exhibited works from other people's collections, participating in modern cultural life. This year, having become a museum, and planning to collect his own collection of contemporary art, he embarked on this controversial path.
With the spread of contemporary art museums as an independent type of cultural institution, architects more and more, again, willingly or unwillingly, in various ways tried to respond to this contradiction. The hysteria of museum buildings of unusual shapes, the peak of which was undoubtedly the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, gradually subsided, giving way to neutral, empty, "washing hands" translucent boxes where you can display "anything you want." Koolhaas, it seems to me, has taken a new step on this path, again exacerbating the issue. Ruins of a modernist, that is, "modern" building are not museum exhibits in and of themselves. The entire museum as a whole, that is, the shell and the ruin inside it, is here its own exhibit. This object-manifesto, both for architecture and, especially, for "modern" art, can be compared in terms of the power of expression, perhaps, only with the "Fountain" (that is, simply speaking, a urinal) by Marcel Duchamp. Such is the ambiguous comparison. But what it is. After all, the main task of contemporary art is to provoke, excite, and most importantly, raise questions, and not answer them, isn't it?
Valentin Dyakonov is probably right when he says that the curators will have to suffer by placing art in the museum that is not related to the “Soviet” context. And why should it be easy for them?
It is strange that so far only one critic has been offended. Duchamp's readymade provoked much more outrage in 1917.
By the way, the toilets in the museum are excellent.