Oxana Bondarenko is a Russian-born, Paris-trained curator and art manager, her mighty organization “the July 16″ pushes the art scene forward with a mix of fearless DIY attitude, professionalism and ambition. After showing St Petersburg squat artists at the Venice Biennale in 2007, introducing the chic Parisian quarter of Saint-Germain to Russian artists and bringing French street artists to the Moscow International Biennale for Young Art 2010. Oxana has also created a new art app called Biennale Way whose task is to create a community of art-travelers so that to plunge them into the world of art.
Could you please tell us more about your job and background?
My professional debut begun when I worked as a collector and curator of personal exhibitions dedicated to art of 19th-20th century. I worked as an art-consultant, participated in auctions, traveled throughout the world in order to find an interesting job and to choose pieces of art for Russian collectors. Later, trying to correspond with modern century I turned to contemporary art. So I created a fund dedicated to contemporary Russian art in foreign countries called Victoria Art Foundation. Moreover, I launched several exhibitions, some of them at the Venice Biennale 2007. Suddenly I realized that I was working for a very close and segmented audience that consisted of only professionals and those who are involved in the world of art. In 2009 I decided to launch my own business and I opened a creative agency “The July 16″ in England. It’s main focus is to work on an interdisciplinary themes such as art and theatre, cinema, music, architecture, design, with an inclusion of larger audience of course. All projects developed by this agency contain not only visual aspect but also an educational one. We like to invent different concepts and then to realize them. This is what I call a perfect cycle of activity. Spheres that we had chosen involve public/urban art and design, content branding (this is when we create a project for one special brand trying to follow its values and tasks), realization of interactive products like applications for iPhone/iPad. These are our projects: with a support of LVMH we created art-vitrines in Paris where works of 5 Russian artist working in a sphere of contemporary art were represented; a festival of French street art with the participation of Zevs, C215, l’Atlas among others; an exhibition for a Center for Contemporary Culture “Garage” (Moscow) with the participation of the stars of conceptual fashion scene like Raf Simons, Husseyn Chalayn, Maison Martin Margela, Bless; an exhibition and performance of CocoRosie in Moscow; 4 public art projects with the participation of M/M Paris, LangBaumann, Sebastien Wierinck and Nina Donis in Moscow at the Institute of Architecture and Design “Strelka”.
How did Russian contemporary art evolve since early Nineties?
It has been orientating on the western tradition, as Russian economy and culture as well. Unfortunately while being under the rule of socialist party Russia lost some radical connection with unique cultural movement of the 20th century that was developing here. Russian avant-garde, constructivism, supermatism in painting, photography, architecture and Russian agitational poster? It’s cool that our 20s got a further development in word’s art history, but ,unfortunately, not in its motherland. Nowadays contemporary Russian artists turn to their historical roots little by little. Only by passing this path we will be able to restore authentic culture to life. I see lots of things today on the Russian art scene, but absolutely none of them, is an interpretation of contemporary foreign tendencies. But it’s also an experience that has to take its place.
What did give birth to the Biennale Way project?
This is the first digital project of our agency. A digital platform where we want to collect information about contemporary art that will provide an accessible content about each exhibition. An application for iPhone/iPad is to orient its users in the world of contemporary art. Questions like where to go, what to visit today, what do I see right in front of me, what did an artist mean by this installation, are just a brief list of questions one can find answers to in our application. Connection to social networks, functionality and design, specially created by digital artists and generative musicians are integrated in this platform in order to promote contemporary art among young and active audience and to share knowledge of contemporary art with users.
Which is the project you’ve been involved you liked the most? Why?
I loved all projects where I was involved. But the most enjoyable was a project with Bianca Casady and Jean-Marc Ruellan in October 2011. Unforgettable impression of cooperative work, some difficulties that we overcame and finally amazing result we achieved: live performance of Bianca with a participation of her sister Sierra Casady, one more singer from music band CocoRosie, via Skype. A mansion in the centre of Moscow absorbed by purple haze, smell of hot chocolate that spreads on different floors of exhibition, like in childhood. In one word, an unusual aesthetics.
Could you name an emerging woman artist you’d like collaborate with? Why?
From Russia? Well, Ania Titova. Speaking of foreign countries I’ll name one, not an emerging, just I like her as an artist. It’s Taryn Simon.
What is the house you live in like? Could you describe your neighborhood?
In Moscow I live in one of famous building named Seven Sisters – as I have always dreamed. But because of many reasons Moscow is not cosy and favorable for comfortable communication between neighbours. But all my dearest and nearest live not far from me, practically they are my neighbours. As for my neighbours in Paris I can say a lot more. I live in the 16th district next to nice French bakeries, cafes, ladies with little dogs… Frankly speaking, I spend practically all my time in planes and business trips, that’s way I consider myself at home when I’m on a journey with lots of new people around.
What are your favorite art venues / galleries in Moscow?
I liked Garage before it was closed. Speaking of galleries I like Regina.
Who is the woman you’d like to see featured / interviewed here?
Taryn Simon, Charlotte Gainsbourg…
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