Russia, newly fearsome and obscure, is very much in the news, but not for reasons that invite open cultural exchange. America’s Cold War adversary for four frosty decades, Russia—then called the Soviet Union—underwent a brief glasnost, or period of transparency during the late 1980s and early 1990s. What followed afterwards was its polar opposite. To borrow a phrase from William Styron, today the largest country on earth exemplifies the idea of darkness visible.
As official Russia has become increasingly hazy to the world—especially in this age of botnets, human trolls, and dezinformatsiya, or disinformation—its scrappy journalism and independent culture have often worked overtime to reveal themselves. Now the Garage Triennial of Contemporary Art, a massive new exhibition held for the first time in Moscow, arrives to shine a light on an underexplored part of Russian culture—its contemporary art. The show is correctly billed as the biggest survey of contemporary Russian art ever. In a fitting twist, it is also slated to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution.