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Development of the Contemporary Art Market in Post-Soviet Russia (1991-2020): The Case of Nikita F. Alekseev, a Representative of the Second Generation of the Moscow Conceptualists

Student: Laure Debouttiere

Supervisor: Anna Guseva

Faculty: Faculty of Humanities

Educational Programme: History of Artistic Culture and the Art Market (Master)

Final Grade: 10

Year of Graduation: 2020

In 1991, the Russian Federation became part of the global market economy. Despite a huge wave of international interest in Russian contemporary art after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the strong economic potential of Russian buyers, the Russian art market has not reached significance at the domestic and global levels. This research aims at tracing the development of the art market in Russia from 1991 to 2020 and to identify how political decisions have constrained its growth. Historical, cultural, legal, political, economic, and social factors are considered to shed light on the context specificities. The analysis of contemporary artworks illustrates the relevance of contemporary art for Russian society and art history. The principal milestones of development for each market category: artists, intermediaries, promoters, and buyers are identified thanks to data collected during interviews with market experts using the Grounded Theory method. The role and activities of the market players - the creation, display, purchase, and promotion of contemporary art - are examined and presented in context. The Russian contemporary art market is then analyzed as a system whose performance is evaluated with the help of a SWOT analysis. The research shows that the Russian contemporary art market developed and grew until 2008. Its further expansion was progressively stopped by the effects of political measures after the reorientation from a capitalist to an authoritarian system. The growth of the contemporary art market had to be contained because the postmodern values at its core conflicted with the conservative ideology. As Russians undergo an identity crisis, the artistic discourse could become a threat to political legitimacy since contemporary artworks raise questions and point at issues of relevance for society. In 2020, the market infrastructures are concentrated in Moscow and a few other cities, but almost inexistent in most of the regions. The situation of the Russian contemporary art market mirrored in global statistics accurately reflects its state of development: still in its infancy. Substantial domestic growth is not foreseeable under Putin's presidency since contemporary art initiatives are currently only supported by the private sector and economic growth is endangered by global challenges.

Full text (added May 18, 2020)

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