American organizations that showcase Russian and Eastern European artists and arts are concerned about a possible backlash from people who might mistakenly associate them with Vladimir Putin’s government. Some have publicly declared their outrage at Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
On Sunday, Russian-born actor Costa Ronin, who starred in the FX series Americans tweeted“As we watch the news and try to make sense of what is happening, please be patient and respectful. Remember there is a difference between the people and the state!”
Latvian-born dancer and actor Mikhail Baryshnikov left the Soviet Union in 1974. On the website of the Manhattan Arts Center that bears his name, he writes: “The Baryshnikov Arts Center supports courageous Ukrainian citizens. They are fighting for their country and their sovereignty in the face of the naked aggression of Russia’s governing powers. »
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Whether it be Swan Lake or the eggs of Fabergé, the American entertainment and fine arts worlds have embraced Russian culture for decades. With cultural boycotts underway, some arts administrators wonder if their organizations will find themselves guilty by association.
Mark Meister, executive director and president of the Minneapolis Museum of Russian Art (TMORA), says the institution hasn’t felt any negative effects so far. Yet when Putin launched a military attack on Ukraine, Meister met with the museum’s board and “they felt that we should make a statement, partly for people who don’t understand what we’re doing and who we are”.
TMORA is dedicated to “the art, people and culture of Muscovite Russia, the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union, its former republics and post-Soviet Russia”. It also houses the largest collection of Soviet-era Ukrainian art in the United States. The museum said on its website: “The Museum of Russian Art stands with the people of Ukraine and urges Russia to immediately cease hostilities and withdraw.” Yesterday, the staff wore the colors of the Ukrainian flag outside his building.
This weekend in New York, around 40 artists from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and other countries gathered at the Fragment Gallery to talk about how they could support Ukrainians and help each other. With galleries in Moscow and New York, “there is no way to dissociate ourselves from our Russian identity,” says Fragment managing partner Anton Svyatsky.
Fragment shows the work of Russian queer artists who have been unable to express their identity in their work at home due to the country’s anti-gay legislation. Now Svyatsky worries about how the West’s anger towards Russia will affect them. “I think we’re going to start seeing a lot more boycotts affecting Russian artists, and it’s going to be like sweeping blanket measures that don’t differentiate whether an artist has been suppressed in Russia or not,” he says. “Creating a cultural gulag out of Russia is by no means a solution. It actually only contributes to the problem.”