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Moscow Goes Modern July 16, 2004

Next January, museums across the city will deck their halls with the latest trends for the first Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art.

By Anna Malpas

A dead shark could be hanging in the Tretyakov Gallery next January if British bad boy Damien Hirst accepts an invitation to show his work at the first Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art. More than 50 artists from Russia and abroad are due to take part in the grandiose event, which aims to put the capital on the modern-art map.

Recently announced at a news conference, the non-commercial art show will be partially funded by the Culture and Press Ministry, while the chairman of the organizing committee is former Culture Minister Mikhail Shvydkoi, who now heads the Federal Culture and Cinematography Agency.

The month-long event is scheduled to open January 18, 2005, in a range of state-owned art venues, including the Tretyakov Gallery, the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, the Central House of Artists, the Shchusev Architecture Musem and the Moscow Museum of Contemporary Art.

Among those invited to present their work are Britart star Hirst, known for suspending the bodies of shark, cows and sheep in formaldehyde, and Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, who created hyper-realistic sculptures of Adolf Hitler at prayer and Pope John Paul II felled by a meteorite, an Izvestia report stated.

The final lineup will become known in the next two or three weeks, a spokeswoman said Tuesday.

So far, only one participant has been confirmed. California-based video artist Bill Viola will show installations at the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Vremya Novostei reported museum director Irina Antonova as saying. In Viola's recent work "The Passions," commissioned by the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, actors depicted extreme grief and despair in a series of slow-motion films.

In addition, an international group of seven curators will create two projects based on the Biennale's theme, "Dialectics of Hope" (Dialektika Nadezhdy), a title taken from a book by Boris Kagarlitsky.

The budget for the event has not yet been announced, but Izvestia quoted coordinating curator Iosif Bakshtein as saying that the Culture and Press Ministry would contribute $1 million.

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