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What is left of The Seasons of the Year

June 13th, 2015 by Willem Jan Renders

(Please read the first part of this blog if you did not yet.)

Inside the new Garage you are welcomed by a huge Bulatov painting (poster would be a better word) that says: “everyone to our ! garage” (at least I think it should be translated as “to” and not as “in”). The other side, equally big, just says “garage”, surrounded by balloons.

And indeed everyone seems to have come to Garage tonight on the occasion of this not so private opening. The whole international flying art circus is packed in this 5,400 square meter building.

Unlike many here I am not looking for people I know. I will meet hem anyway (or not). As your dedicated reporter I am also carefully avoiding the delicious vodka that is being served in large quantities and in various combinations.

 

Eh, no thank you, I’ll have a sparkling mineral water please…

 

First of all I am looking for the parts of the original Vremena Goda (Seasons of the Year) building. One part, the mosaic, is prominently present in the central hall. But to call the preservation of this prominent part of a Soviet restaurant and some of the original walls “a renovation of late Soviet architecture” would be too much said.

There are a few more walls of the original building, but this is undoubtedly a creation by Rem Koolhaas. A nice building, undoubtedly, smart looking, a clever interplay of volumes, severe, even austere sometimes, but this new Garage is certainly not a museum.

It would have been a nice start for Dasha to ask Rem to make a building – any at all- and to look for the function afterwards. The outcome of this architectural experiment would have been a ‘folly looking for function’ and interesting in all respects.

But this building, opening now with so much aplomb, has been intended, designed and built as a museum. And it’s not! The way in which the few original ‘old’ artworks in one of the opening expositions are shown already announce that this is not and can never be a museum. The delicate original drawings by Malevich, Suetin and Yakerson (I leave out some other artists) are shown in far too much light, behind reflecting glass and with the shadows of the frames casting over the drawings. The anonymous Moscow collector who owns these works is probably the only one in the world to allow drawings of this kind to be shown like this. I think the climate control of this building will prove to be very difficult, especially during the hot Russian summers and the proverbial cold winters.

To make exhibitions in a Koolhaas building was never and will never be be an easy task. Function follows form in his mind and the use of a building was never a real issue for him, whether it was an office he designed, a private home, a concert hall or a museum. So exhibitions will have to be made to fit into this new Garage or one will have to make a special architecture inside to house them. Hopefully this environment of black concrete walls and sanded underlayment floors will generate a new type of exhibitions, but new ideas to show contemporary art feel already perfectly at home in old buildings too. And an old factory for instance makes the artworks on show a lot less pretentious.

Forbidden for wheelchairs

 

And that’s not everything. Unlike the Kunsthal Rotterdam the entrance and exit is clear for the public fortunately. But an easy chair is hard to find in these Spartan surroundings, even in the restaurant. And I would certainly not like to be in a wheelchair here, not only to move around in the building but also and especially to go to the toilet. Looking for a book in the bookshop is also forbidden for those who cannot walk.

 

Koolhaas citing himself

 

 

 

 

I walk up the stairs towards the auditorium, another citation of the Kunsthal Rotterdam. Let’s have a look at some of the exhibitions now.

 

 

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