Museum of Modern Art PERMM

Svetlana Luchnikova

Department of Museum Education, PERMM

Museum of Modern art PERMM

Bul'var Gagarina 24 Perm, Permskiy kray 614070 Russia

Perm, Russia 

ICOM Russia Award 2018


From a Museum of Power, to a Museum Working With Locals



2009 - 2012. Skeptics will be put to shame: an attempt to create Perm’s Bilbao
The Museum "PERMM" was founded in 2009; it was the first museum of contemporary art in Russia outside Moscow and Saint-Petersburg. The creation of the museum was a part of the new cultural policy pursued by the governor Oleg Chirkunov and gallerist Marat Guelman. This policy («Perm Cultural Revolution») included the transformation of Perm from the industrial city into the cultural capital and placing Perm on the cultural map of Russia and the world. At the center there was an idea that the cultural life improves the quality of life of citizens and people would not want to leave Perm. Museum «PERMM» was a driver of Revolution and showed the audience samples of the world and Russian contemporary art. Thanks to the Revolution, inhabitants of the provincial city began to think about culture and themselves in the global context, people from different places began to come to Perm.
The first urban public art program in Russia curated by Nailya Allahverdieva appeared in Perm, and it became the hallmark of the Revolution. The task of the program was to integrate art into daily life. Thanks to public art many people got acquainted with contemporary art for the first time. However, there was a wide discussion around the program which reflected the inhabitants’ skepticism regarding innovation and drawbacks of Revolution.

The main slogan of the Revolution «Skeptics will be put to shame» reflects the modernizing, «violent» character of policy, its powerful status and its absence of a social project . The high level of resistance was based on the lack of a regional agenda in events. This Revolution didn’t imply involvement of citizens in the design of urban processes. The initiation of policy by the governor led to strong dependence on governmental resources and high politicization of cultural life.




2012 – 2014. Tension is growing up: crisis
In 2012 the situation changed a lot. Oleg Chirkunov resigned as governor. The political power’s opinion about contemporary art had changed. The project of the cultural capital was abandoned. The Director of the M useum, Marat Gelman, was fired. In addition, in 2014 the M useum was forced to move to a new rented building due to the River Station’s accident state. The key work at the last exhibition in the River Station was "Tension is growing up" by artist Timofey Radya. This phrase reflected the common impression about the situation around the Museum – it looked like the situation of deep crisis.

2014 – 2019. Mom, I'm sorry. I will be an artist! Creating a museum with locals
The M useum team led by Nailya Allahverdieva decided to reload their strategy and find new sources of support: the city and citizens. The Museum has constructed new strategy that took into account the flaws of the R evolution.

The elderly people’s projects «Common Yard» (2017, curator Svetlana Luchnikova) and teens projects «Conversation with the city» (2018, curator Anastasia Shipitsina) and other numerous educational programs present the new strategy of the Museum. Today the M useum uses the ironic slogan: «Mom, I'm sorry. I will be an artist!» It doesn’t mean that children, teens (and elderly people) strive to become professional artists. But it means that museum visitors apply the means of contemporary art to realize their needs and creativity, to transform the urban environment and to influence the city.

The technology for implementing both projects is the same: participants, with the help of professional curators and artists research the urban environment, invent and create their own public art projects. Why does the M useum team choose to work outside the M useum, in the city ? It’s a point at the intersection of the interests of the M useum and the inhabitants of Perm. That's why public art led to the hottest discussions.




Why are elderly people interested in doing street art projects? They demonstrate a proactive position in life, with many useful skills and the Soviet background of street care that now is considered to be irrelevant. What is more, they are very often taken away from social life after retirement. And gardening in the yards near their homes becomes their only way to apply their vital forces and creativity. It’s very useful for the city, which has ‘depressive’ zones and a boring industrial visual background. But unfortunately, their creativity doesn't always look good. And the M useum team is sure that the activity will be more successful if older people know about the means of contemporary art.

As a result of «Common yard» a number of unique elderly people’s public-art projects  appeared in Perm. There was an unexpected result of the art-project «House of Memories» - the solution of domestic problems. One of the participants had lived in a large yard with several houses before. But almost all the houses were demolished, only one remained. The management company fenced the back yard from the residents and broke the boiler with hot water heating. The project participant wanted to solve this problem. The idea came up to tell this touching story in the form of memories about this common yard which would never be the same. The participants of the project wrote residents' memories on the walls of the house. The object was shown on several Russian TV shows. Therefore the management company was forced to repair the heating.

«Conversation with the city» was an art residence which was organized with the artist Timofey Radya. Over eight days of work we created five large-scale art objects. Why is it a conversation and who is talking?
- "Adult" society and teenagers. In recent years, adolescents are increasingly becoming heroes of the news in different contexts: as famous bloggers, civic activists, volunteers and mass crime organizers. News suggest that the modern age order is changing, teens "conquer" their subjectivity step by step. Adults should take a closer look at adolescents, the project creates a channel for a dialogue.
- Teenagers and adults. Often they say that "adults do not hear them." Creating art objects is an opportunity to discuss important things on a large scale in a public space with the support of professional artists.
- The city and the citizens and vice versa. The “Conversations with the city” is a heart-to-heart conversation. Teens tried to return their feelings and sensations to the streets (occupied by advertising) using art.

As a result of «Сonversations…» teens have created five art objects. One of them - «Water between us» (a huge text near the Kama River) - talks about emptiness existing between people. Teen objects do not only cause a great resonance, but transform the city by the forces of it s inhabitants. The format of teens residences became very popular in the Perm region. Today we ho ld more than 10 residences with museums and schools. During 2019 we made a residence with police and young criminals.

In conclusion, the described projects present a new museum policy and a new approach in working with citizens. Today the M useum’s projects raise not only global problems but discuss local city agenda too. We still make high-quality projects with the best professional artists but we also offer citizens a chance to become artists too. We involve audiences in a process of creating museum content, meanings and space, sees the art as not only professional activity but as a useful mean to change everyone’s life for something better.




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