Creative spaces of Moscow

more than a year ago

Published in the guide "Moscow In Your Pocket" №42, August - September 2016

Many of the places we visited reflect Moscow’s transition from its Soviet past, into a modern, cosmopolitan city. Creative spaces like Flacon, Red October, and Winzavod are examples of a metamorphosis, not only of the buildings from abandoned factories into cultural hotspots, but also of the socio-political environment of Russia itself. These complexes, which are home to art galleries, restaurants and studios, are testament to restorative skill; taking disused buildings and turning them into magnets for locals and tourists. As Moscow continues to make its name as a trendy, cultural city, we can now introduce you to the some of the places that are responsible for the city’s growing creative reputation.

Garage is perhaps one of the most famous contemporary art museum’s in Moscow, founded by Dasha Zhukova. Garage is undeniably leading the way in contemporary art development not only in Moscow but in Russia as a whole; the institution has been involved in the development of New Holland Island in St. Petersburg as well as numerous other projects.
The museum itself is nestled in Gorky Park; the vast Soviet modernist structure is impossible to miss and leaves a powerful impression on visitors before they have even entered. The building is raised two metres above the ground, to provide visitors with a view over Gorky Park once inside. Such an architecturally spectacular structure comes at a cost however, and since the renovation began in 2011, $2 billion has been spent on Garage.
Inside, you are immediately overwhelmed by the incredible vastness of the space. The current elegant feature by Rashid Johnson is a colourful antidote to the whitewashed walls and minimalist interior. It is the perfect space to house contemporary art exhibitions, as the simplicity of the building’s interiors allows the eye to be drawn and held by the exhibition features.
The building itself however was not always a haven of simplicity and minimalism. Before it was redesigned by Rem Koolhaus, it was once a true icon of the Soviet era. Unbelievably, the structure was once the huge restaurant ‘Vremena Goda’ which translates to ‘Seasons of the Year’. The novelty of this quirky restaurant was the sheer numbers of people it could host - over 1000 people. Whilst Dutch architect Rem Koolhaus indeed turned the dilapidated relic of the Soviet Union into a home befitting of modern art, much of the original elements of the building remain. Mosaics and murals have been preserved, which create a tangible juxtaposition of eras, encapsulating at once Russia’s rapid historical transition of the last three decades. Of course, Garage is known for more than just its architecture and inside there are a number of different exhibitions which occupy the space, as well as an auditorium, bookshop, café and educational centre. The current feature exhibition until 21st August, is Urs Fischer’s ‘Small Axe’ which spreads from inside the museum itself, to outside into the park where the public can participate in the exhibition. Urs Fischer’s ‘audience participation’ comes in the form of an open space in which visitors can create their own art using clay provided by the museum. The result is dozens of clay sculptures, which change and develop over time as new passers-by try their hand at being creative.
Another show currently on display is the Co-Thinkers exhibition, which plays with the senses, using a focus on touch, sound and sight. The exhibition is brought together by four collaborators who have different disabilities, Elena Fedoseeva, Evgeny Lyapin, Elizaveta Morozova, and Polina Sineva, who helped to select the final pieces of artworks. From the moment you enter, Co-Thinkers really is a treasure chest of delights, with both visual and audio displays as well as miniature versions of pieces for visitors to touch and discover. Co-Thinkers invites visitors to think and feel, considering the different ways our senses affect us, and the way in which we appreciate art.
One of the joys of Garage are the many events that are hosted there. A regular fixture is the film screenings which take place either in the auditorium, or in the summer, on the rooftop. The films range from international and foreign films, to documentaries, to films about current artists exhibiting there. Film is becoming more and more popular as a mode of creating and expressing art and Garage is taking full advantage of that. The films, based on the artists, offer a rare and beautiful glimpse into their lives, which adds a personal perspective to their work, allowing visitors to truly immerse themselves in the process of the art they are seeing. To continue the theme of bringing art to life, Garage hosts numerous workshops both for adults and children.
As pioneers of contemporary art exhibition, it is unsurprising that Garage is home to the largest library of books dedicated to 20th and 21st century art in the country. The library draws in researchers and lovers of art, who benefit from the electronic catalogue, and the many literary events held at the museum.
Garage as a creative space is hard to characterise in just a few sentences; it is a hub of modern creativity and contemporary art, but beyond that it is a leader of artistic development, cultivating projects in Moscow and Russia. Set in Gorky Park, it is worth dedicating a day to explore the museum, and the exhibitions both inside and out. It is hard to imagine that once upon a time, in the same building was a vast Soviet restaurant that saw Moscow in the midst of communism. Despite Garage’s exquisite makeover however, the preservation of its Soviet interior allows for whispers of the past to linger in the building, reminding us that Russia is still teetering on the threshold of time, with one hand clinging to its history as it clambers towards the future.

B‑5, Gorky Park, ul. Krymsky Val 9/32, M Oktyabrskaya, tel. (+7) 495 645 05 20, Open 11:00 - 22:00. Admission 100-400Rbl.

Winzavod is another example of a fruitful renovation of an abandoned complex in Moscow. Once a brewery, later a winery and finally a slum, the area has seen multiple transformations since it was first bought in 1810. Today, Winzavod has shaken off its past and is now a creative hub, teeming with contemporary culture.
Winzavod takes you back in time to the early 19th century, when it was first owned by Princess Catherine Volkonskaya. From the 1800s onwards, the area was a brewery and malt house and in 1870s was bought by Moscow Bavaria. Later, in 1885, a charity housing association was founded by the Khudsov family, which eventually fell into ruin and became a large industrial slum in the Soviet era. All that changed in 2007 when businessman Roman Trotsenko founded the Winzavod Centre for Contemporary Art. The metamorphosis of the space since then has resulted in an energetic centre of art exhibitions, studios, shops and restaurants. Don’t be put off when you first enter the circular complex, it may seem like an Alice in Wonderland rabbit warren of different doors leading to different rooms, but this is all part of Winzavod’s charm. Whilst the staff that work at Winzavod are not necessarily all forthcoming with information about the centre, if you need some guidance for where to start, ask at the ticket booth when you first enter, where you will be given a map of the area.

Associated Venues


Connect via social media
Leave a comment using your email This e-mail address is not valid
Please enter your name*

Please share your location

Enter your message*
Take your guide with you Download a pdf Browse our collection of guides
Put our app in your pocket
City Essentials

Download our new City Essentials app

download 4.5