Interview with Nadezhda Zinovskaya on new project AyarKut Yakutia

Nadezhda Zinovskaya is known in Russia as an art manager and founder of the art exhibition venue Cube.Moscow. In the near future, she is planning the Tag Yakutia project, organized jointly with the creative communities of Yakutia. In an interview for News.Ykt.Ru Nadezhda talked about a potential audience of the new project, how Cube.Moscow has become a place of attraction for contemporary art in Moscow, and the importance of constant training for a modern artist.

Nadezhda Zinovskaya was born in Lensk in a family of artists. Her parents gave her and her sister an early love for art. As a result, they both received art education. Nadezhda's sister Ksenia Kudrina is a talented artist whose works were a revelation at the Moscow International Biennale of Young Art in 2016.

Nadezhda received her education as an art manager. She has always been interested in contemporary art, worked with artists and collectors, and attended international biennales of contemporary art. In 2019, Nadezhda, together with business partner Elena Belonogova, opened Cube.Moscow art exhibition venue in the building of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel, a five-minute walk from the Kremlin.

Now Cube.Moscow is a platform for galleries, artists, art dealers, collectors, and other participants in the field of art. On the exhibition area of over 1000 square meters, 16 exhibitions are held simultaneously, where you can see the works of dozens of contemporary artists. Lectures, round tables and events for collectors are also organized here.

How did you come out with the idea to organize the AyarKut Yakutia project?

In fact, I have long wanted to do a joint project with the Yakutians, but in the end I took the bar higher and started with Moscow. Now that there is an opportunity to do something for the republic, I decided to become a part of this history and create a program in the field of art together with local communities.

Will this project be related to the promotion of Yakut artists?

The main goal of the project is to create a base for the creative economy in the field of art in Yakutia. Promotion will be one of the directions of the program, but we will not limit ourselves to this. First of all, the program will be aimed at talented educated youth. I want to engage and interest them so much that working in the field of art becomes a dream and a life mission for them. If you teach these smart, beautiful, and creative young people all the necessary things, then just imagine what prospects they will have for development in the creative industry.

It is also important to understand that speaking about the directions and development in the field of art and culture, we touch not only artists, but also the activities of galleries, curatorial artwork, and art criticism. There are so many directions.

It should be noted that the main thing is that the program will be connected not only with art, but also with the creative business. This includes painting, design, architecture and much more. We will create a platform and a grant program for people who are ready to study and develop their creative business. This will help them to assess their capabilities more boldly and more broadly.

The main directions of the AyarKut Yakutia project, implemented with the support of Sinet Spark are:
● Grant educational program;
● Art fairs, exhibition activities;
● Creation of an art residence;
● Promotion of artists' careers.

What is creative business on the example of Yakutia?

Creative business is not only about large art centers and galleries. You can create state-of-the-art mammoth bone jewelry and sell them as exclusive products in Amsterdam and New York, and this will also be a creative business.

Now many Yakuts are limited to the local market, and the whole world needs to be interested in them. To do this, you need to expand your consciousness, learn, know what is relevant and interesting now. In the creative industries, it is very important to do research in the field in which you work. You can't just sit in isolation, stare at the wall and achieve success like that. To understand what you can offer the world, you need to know what's going on around you. And for us, this will be the main task for the first period of the program — to open people's eyes.

The main objectives of the Ayarkut Yakutia project
● Creation of a base for a creative economy in the field of art in Yakutia;
● Attracting and supporting talented artists;
● Training of new professional personnel;
● Writing the art history of the region;
● Involvement of private and public spaces;
● International cooperation and exchange.

From the point of view of an art manager, what is needed to bring a local art business to the Russian or international market?

The most important thing is to have a good idea and enough energy for its implementation. Sometimes even one person is enough for this. Everything else is just methods, tables, diagrams and timing.
I like to challenge myself. Recently, a friend asked me "What do you like the most?", I replied "You know, I like to create something completely new." This is my mission in life.

Is it possible to say that with the help of the AyarKut Yakutia project, you want to give people the tools so that they engage in independent development and promotion?

The program is aimed at just that. We are not giving fish, we will teach people to catch it, and on different scales. To do this, it is important for them to understand that this is possible. They need to get an experience that will show that they can achieve everything themselves.

Now I am very glad that there is an opportunity to start the implementation of the Yakut project. For me, it is now a priority, and it starts in March.

In addition to the Tag Yakutia project, I am engaged in a large international project related to the global market. When I get caught up in a project, I think about it 24 hours a day - wherever I am.

Does such an obsession in a good way help to achieve goals?

I do not achieve my goals as an achiever, I’d rather just live in the moment, while clearly knowing what will happen in five or ten years. When you are engaged in art and art business, it is important, on the one hand, to be emotional, to be able to feel and develop empathy, and on the other - you need to be a very disciplined and rational person. This is just about me, feels like this is where I belong.

On art management as a fusion of rational and creative, Cube.Moscow, and the Russian art market

Which of the Yakut artists can you single out?

Now I know two Yakut artists with whom I could work right now. The first is Dunya Zakharova. I really like her, I think she has a huge potential for a breakthrough into the international market. I love her, adore her and believe in her and that she can glorify Yakutia outside the country.

Nadezhda with her sister, the artist Ksenia Kudrina.

And the second artist is Ksenia Kudrina, my sister. She is currently working with two galleries from France and the USA. Ksenia, like Dunya Zakharova, is at the stage of a new breakthrough in her career.

These artists are known in Russia, their works are bought by collectors from other countries, and they both have a huge potential for development on the global market.

After all, you and your sister grew up in a family of artists, and since childhood you have been surrounded by conversations about art. How did you move into management?

This is probably a karmic story in some sense. I have lived in an artistic environment since birth, but I had a denial of this. I told myself that I was more interested in strategies, schemes, management, and discipline. Art in its purest form seemed to me too ephemeral. I wanted to see numbers and results that could be measured.

Later I managed to find myself when I took up art management. It combined what I love - process management, which I find really enjoyable, and art - an environment where I feel completely harmonious and natural.

Does it mean you have never faced a dilemma who you should be - an artist or a manager?

I always felt that I was doing the right thing. When I was drawing, I was an artist, I felt that I was where I should be. Then I worked as a manager for a long time (Nadezhda was an art director at a toy company, later became the CEO of it - ed.), but again in the field of creative business. I adored my work and devoted all my time to it.

And somewhere around the age of 37, I began to find myself and the meaning of life. I wanted to drastically change my life. I started to gradually move in this direction and now I can say that I have found my way: I have no internal struggles, I feel good.

But who knows what will happen in 10 years? Maybe by this time I will choose some completely different path. That's why I don't think ahead. My values and attitudes remain and will remain the same, but life still changes us and constantly offers new ways for development.

The exhibition of the artist Didier Mayes "On the other side of the mirror" at the stand of the Belgian NK Gallery in the Cube.Moscow. Photo: Cube art platform.

When you created Cube.Moscow right in the very center of Moscow, was it a challenge to you?

Now Cube seems so small to me. I want an even bigger scale. But at that time it was a global project for me. I worried a lot and even tried not to think much about what awaits us. At first it was very challenging: it was difficult to declare yourself in the snobbish art market of Russia, even just from the human perspective. Now I can say that we did everything right: we never deviated from the original plan.

There should always be some kind of challenge to yourself and your capabilities in life. Once I said to the mentor "Well, what am I doing? Maybe it should be simpler and smaller?", he replied "Nadia, if you are not afraid of the task, then it is not worth solving it at all. You should always be a little scared. Bring yourself to this state."

Now everything is clear to me with the Yakut project and I'm not afraid anymore. So I say to myself, let's make the scale bigger, let's set more ambitious goals. And when I start to feel slight jitters in my chest, I realize that I've caught a wave.

Cube.Moscow art space

What is Cube.Moscow like now?

Now Cube is an art space of one and a half thousand squares in the center of Moscow, on the second floor of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel on Tverskaya Street. 16 exhibitions of contemporary art are held here at the same time. Today there are 13 galleries in Cube, in a month there will be 14. We have both permanent residents and temporary ones.

Art Weekend is held once a month, it is completely closed VIP previews and press previews. Galleries change expositions in their exhibition spaces, invite collectors and guests. The next day, a semi-closed event is organized by invitation for friends and relatives of artists. Later, the exhibition opens to all visitors.

How has the pandemic affected the number of visitors? Has the number of visitors decreased?

The flow of visitors, on the contrary, is only growing, in general, as is the interest in art. This, of course, cannot but please us. At one point, there were more young people among the visitors. It all started with the fact that one blogger with a million audience posted a video about Cube on TikTok, and since then our site has become very popular on this social network.

This is a completely different cross-section of the audience for us, since we initially focused on collectors, gallery owners, buyers. And we see that we need to learn how to communicate properly with a new audience so that they learn to understand art. This generation consumes art in a different way: it is important for them to get in touch with it - to take pictures, touch, make videos, and so on.

Works by Oleg Khvostov and Denis Prasolov at the P+A Gallery stand in the Cube space. Photo: Cube art platform

How are artists and galleries selected for Cube?

We select only the strongest artists. Thanks to this, exhibitions are very high-quality. Now, for example, the Cube hosts an exhibition of the artist Alexander Kosolapov, one of the founders of social art. Many people know him as the author of the work with Lenin and Coca-Cola, which could be seen in Times Square in the 60s in New York.

We also help young artists. They can be selected as part of our program and exhibit their works in our center. Artists love us very much, they consider it a landmark event to exhibit at Cube.

We are also actively developing the direction of selling works of art. This is vital both for the galleries and for the artists themselves. Galleries spend a lot of money on the development of artists. And part of the money from the sale of works by recognized artists always goes to the promotion of their young colleagues.

In addition, we are a member of the Russian Union of Creative Clusters and cooperate with the Moscow Department of Entrepreneurship, actively promoting initiatives aimed at the development of the Russian art market. For example, we managed to ensure that the Moscow authorities reimbursed Moscow galleries up to 700 thousand rubles of expenses per year for holding art fairs.

We see this as our main goal — to be friends with all participants of the art market and combine our efforts with them to achieve common goals.

In one interview, you said that Russia has a fairly low level of art consumption when compared with European countries. Has this situation started to change in recent years?

Indeed, it often happens that people buy very expensive furniture, worth millions, and hang a poster from IKEA over a conditional sofa. To change this situation, you need to talk a lot about art, educate and inform people, and be a guide for them in the world of galleries. It doesn't happen all at once, we are getting to it step by step.

When you believe in art and that the works of artists are extremely valuable, then people begin to believe in you, in your ideas and change their vision. In addition, in recent years, so many educational courses dedicated to art have appeared in Russia, and we are glad that we are part of this educational process.

The Kultproekt Gallery stand in the Cube art space. Kirill Rave's total installation "The Broken Room. The Merge." Photo: Cube art platform

Are there artists in Yakutia whose works could be worth millions in the future?

It is difficult for me to answer this question now. You need to work hard, meet an artist personally, see their potential and each of their works. And the value is not the works, but the artist themselves — their thinking, prospects, and opportunities. And it's not even about what kind of education they have, it depends much more on their thinking — on their ability to interpret events and phenomena of the surrounding world and speak about them through their works. It is also important that the tools and visual techniques used by the artist are modern and meet the requirements of the time. It often happens that they can see and feel, but cannot find the necessary and relevant tools to convey their worldview.

An artist is a person who is on the front line and sees the world as it will be tomorrow. Contemporary art has not yet passed the test of time. It is alive, present, it is here and now, and it is unknown whether it will be of value in the future. Today, for example, the work of our contemporary artist might cost 20 thousand euros, and tomorrow - zero or millions.

But to begin with, it is important for any artist to stop hiding from the world. They should show the world what they can do and that they have potential. It's not just one step, it's always a process. And I believe that if a person does not hide and close themselves off from everything new, the world will definitely notice them and their talent.