The 8th Moscow International Biennale of Contemporary Art opened its doors for visitors last week in the Russian capital, presenting an international cohort at the New Tretyakov Gallery.

This year, the Moscow Biennale is showing two Azerbaijani artists — Heydar Aliyev Foundation Leyla Aliyeva and Orkhan Mammadov — whose work Eternity (2019) unlocks iconic patterns culled from different Azerbaijani museums, schools and public buildings. The work takes the form of a digital installation that refigures traditional ornaments and elegant carpet designs, allowing visitors to encounter different artificially generated patterns based on an algorithm, the result being beautiful and intricate patterns that did not exist before.

Alongside Aliyeva and Mammadow, the Moscow Biennale includes artists from Russia, Austria, Bahrain, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Italy, China and other countries.

Leyla Aliyeva and Orkhan Mammadov, Eternity, 2019.
Leyla Aliyeva and Orkhan Mammadov, Eternity, 2019.

Representing Bahrain, Rashid Al Khalifa’s installation Mashrabiya (21st century) presents a mesmerising installation that invites viewers to experience textured shadows and light, cast via a series of interlocking polychromatic metal structures. The installation recalls the architectural form of the Mashrabiya (Arabic: مشربية), one of the foremost architectural elements of Arab homes.

As well, for this first time this year, the Moscow Biennale has also enlisted help from partnerships abroad, bringing in Austria’s Albertina Museum.

The partnership foregrounds artists and movements from the 20th century, signally a broader desire to use culture to build bridges rather than walls. A total of 11 artists of the 20th century are preserved now in the museum, highlighting the common cultural space between Europe and Russia.

Dmitri Tcherniakov, curator of the main project of the Biennale, wanted to breathe new life into the biennale format. In doing so, he has created different themes and genres in the form of pavilions in small capsules and houses, seeking to building a cohesive dialogue between the many artists and cultures represented. Amalgamating these diversities became a complex issue, but eventually led Tcherniakov to conceiving of the “Orientation in the Space” for the 8th edition.

The architect and exhibition designer behind the main exhibition is Sergei Tchoban, who conceived of the exhibition design as based on “the idea of a city of artists.” In doing so, Tchoban developed parts separated into “buildings” and “squares,” as he calls them, with the idea that the content should respond to the intention of the exhibiting artists.

Above all, the Moscow Biennale invites both international and domestic artists to reflect upon the turbulent times we live in. “It emphasises the continuity of the tradition of the presence of contemporary art,” says Zelfira Tregulova, director of the Tretyakov Gallery, “both International and Russian.”

Moscow Biannale is ongoing until January 20, 2020.