The Distance Shortening
Irina Korina. Zelfira Tregulova. 2020

Sergey Khachaturov: Mrs. Tregulova, your policies as the head of the Tretyakov Gallery overcome the dogmas of conservatism and the locality of presentation of the national school of Russian art. Is your aiming at the global, not the local context of presentation and perception of Russian art done on principle?

Zelfira Tregulova: Since about 88th I’ve been trying to grasp two things: how is Russian art special, and why and how it so happened that Russian art is undervalued. And also the third thing: what has to be done so that our national art is perceived as totally comparable with Western-European art in terms of importance and distinctiveness. At the exhibition RUSSIA! viewers followed the spiral of the Guggenheim museum halls, from old Russian icon art to Ilya Kabakov’s installation about the man gone to space. What matters most for Russian artist is the idea, and they are ready for everything to implement it, right up to self-destruction. This is why Russian artists’ fates are often tragic. A strong metaphor of such way is presented in Kabakov’s installation: an artist might sacrifice themself in order to reach that world and the eternal light, which is pouring through a ghastly hole.

Sergey Khachaturov: In 2018, you, the Gallery, opened an exhibition in the Vatican Museums: Pilgrimage of Russian Art. From Dionysius to Malevich. Did you also pose the same goal there?

Zelfira Tregulova: The goal of Pilgrimage was to present Russian art as something holistic, where the old Russian art talks to the viewer about the same things, as do the main works of the painters of the late 19th century. The exhibition’s curators Arkadiy Ippolitov and Tatyana Yudenkova saw how accurately the ideas of religious art rhymed with Peredvizhniki, which have long been refused in being deeply understanding of the issues raised by Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky in that day’s literature.

Sergey Khachaturov: Is it also a duty of the Tretyakov’s case followers today to protect the new, uncomfortable art?

Zelfira Tregulova: Yes, I try to always remember that Tretyakov bought contemporary art, that he bought works of young artists who were about 30. He bought works which were prohibited by the censorship bodies; and any museum should be a living one, it should go on collecting and accumulating contemporary art, even though the museums, due to the tremendous economic problems in the 90s, weren’t able to purchase the best works of Russian artists.

Sergey Khachaturov: Should a museum today modify its ideological programme so that it reacts to various, sometimes mutually exclusive points of view?

Zelfira Tregulova: With our exhibitions we fully address the multipolarity of the situation. At the exhibition Somebody 1917 we tried to present the variety of the things artists created during the named year. It was obvious that in 1917 the avante-garde was still limited in its influence, while since 1918 it became the basis of the cultural politics of the Soviet state. In the revolution year artists tried to express their time in all ways possible.

Sergey Khachaturov: Yet, where does the border lie, in terms of what we can collect for a state museum, a national treasury, and what insults the feelings and so on?

Zelfira Tregulova: Unfortunately, it’s hard for me to answer, precisely due to an incredible variety of opinions and unthinkable aggression in discussions. And one also understands that anything you should say might be then used against you, misinterpreted, consciously distorted and so on…

April 8, 2021