The Russian Art Archive Network (RAAN) is an online catalogue of documents on the history of Russian contemporary art from the collections of Garage and partner institutions.
In 2012, Garage Museum of Contemporary Art began building an archive on the history of Russian contemporary art, which currently holds the world’s largest collection of materials on Soviet and Russian art of the postwar era. In the process of developing the archive, Garage came across several gaps of knowledge that could not be filled through the acquisition of institutional or private collections available within the country: materials relating to Soviet nonconformist art had been scattered across the world as people who were once active on the scene left the country. Today, they are accumulated in several archives run by different organizations.
Garage approached two international institutions with major archives on Soviet nonconformist art—the Zimmerli Art Museum (Rutgers University, USA) and the Research Center for East European Studies (University of Bremen, Germany)—with the idea of collaborating on the creation of the Russian Art Archive Network (RAAN).
The development of RAAN involves the gradual digitization of Garage Archive Collection and the archives of the partner institutions. The materials are then uploaded to a database designed by Garage that integrates the scanned documents from each partners’ institutional databases.
The goal of the Russian Art Archive Network project is to create an international online platform to promote and facilitate research into postwar Russian contemporary art. Together, Garage and its RAAN partners are working to help researchers and the wider audience gain access to sources that were previously out of reach due to the specific nature of archival and museum storage. The initiative will also encourage researchers to study archives in Russia’s regions and gradually attract new institutional partners to the project.
The project’s website features an online catalogue allowing users to search the archive collections of all RAAN partners, with new materials added as digitization continues. The first documents, uploaded in December 2017, come from several archive collections at Garage. These include invitations to exhibitions, press releases, and posters from the archive of Art Projects Foundation, posters from the collections of Leonid Talochkin and Nina Zaretskaya (TV Gallery).
The website has Russian and English versions. Most of the archive's catalogue is in Russian, with the exception of entries for archival documents and press cuttings in foreign languages, and information on exhibitions that took place outside Russia/the Soviet Union.
The Zimmerli Art Museum has 12 important archives related to its Dodge Collection of Soviet Nonconformist Art that provide valuable primary source material illuminating a variety of unofficial artistic activities in Moscow and St. Petersburg (Leningrad) in the period of the 1960s–1980s. The Dodge archives, acquired by the museum in the late 1990s and through the 2000s, are an integral part of the Zimmerli’s mission of documenting and conducting scholarly research on artworks in its collections. This valuable primary source material illuminates a variety of unofficial artistic activities in Moscow, St. Petersburg (Leningrad), and the former Soviet Republics, providing insight into the personal, social, and institutional conditions under which the artists worked. Containing more than 50,000 items, the Dodge Archive is one of the few institutional collections of material related to postwar Soviet art and culture, and the only one in North America.
Among the Moscow-related archival materials, the best-represented artists are those associated with the Moscow Conceptualist circle and the émigré journal A-Ya, including Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid, Dmitri Prigov, Collective Actions group, Rimma and Valery Gerlovin, Natalia Abalakova and Anatoly Zhigalov, Vadim Zakharov, Viktor Skersis, Yuri Albert, and many others. The museum holds the full archive of the Moscow Archive of New Art (MANI), a collection of documents on the preparation for Collective Actions’ “trips out of town” and the documentation of the trips, as well as documents relating to the activities of Leningrad’s Fellowship for Experimental Fine Arts. These materials are supplemented by a separate archive of documentary photographs of artworks and apartment gatherings, while the rare books holdings contain related issues of the Leningrad-based samizdat publication Chasy (The Clock) and its companion art-related publication Galereya (The Gallery).
The Research Center for East European Studies at the University of Bremen was founded in 1982. Its archive collection was formed with a focus on samizdat and other materials that reflected the life and work of dissidents in the former Soviet countries, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary, and the German Democratic Republic. To date the archive has accumulated over 600 private collections, including from Soviet Nonconformist artists, authors, and poets such as Anna Alchuk, Anatoly Brusilovsky, Eduard Gorokhovsky, Igor Golomshtok, Michail Grobman, Boris Groys and Natalia Nikitina, Boris Zaborov, Lev Nusberg, Sergey Sigey and Rea Nikonova, Genrikh Sapgir, and Igor Kholin. It includes a large archive collected by German historian and expert in Slavic cultures Karl Eimermacher, which includes materials from Vadim Sidur. The Center’s Archive also contains materials from the Moscow Archive of New Art (MANI) and A-Ya art journal, and photographs documenting life in the artistic circles of Moscow, Leningrad, and Paris. Other archives in the Center’s collection will also be studied for art-related materials as part of the RAAN project.
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