Sheep slaughter at Moscow Art Fair

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Posted by Serge Khripoun on March 09, 1997 at 20:11:47:

Russia's art calendar was opened this March with the second attempt to
host the best of contemporary art galleries -- as well as art
magazines, publishers, printmakers and foreign guest institutions, among
them Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, NY -- at ArtMoscow,
the international art fair. The city's major exhibition place also
presented an antiquarian salon.
Leading Russian contemporary artists -- from Conceptualist classics to
young and brave radicals -- were featured by leading
galleries: Aidan, Guelman, Obscuri Viri, XL. The Kokserek gallery was
invited to represent Kazakhstan. The day before the opening,
Kazakh artists uncovered their plans to perform a ritual oblation in the
booth. This news set disturbance and resentment among
exhibitors who called Expo Park, the fair organisers, to persuade the
guests from killing an animal. After some arguing, Kazakh
artists agreed to leave the sheep alive, but demanded it shoud stay
within the installation for the period of art fair, from 3 to 8 of
So everything settled up, and on Monday the fair was succesfully opened.
At midday one of German guys from Edition
KunstKontakte came to Kokserek booth to play clarinet for the sheep and
the viewers. And then, at around 3 p.m. absolutely
unexpectedly Kazakh artist Kanat and his fellows killed the sheep. It
took a few seconds and occasional viewers just were shocked
and striken dumb.
In the next couple of minutes the artists flayed the animal's skin,
Kanat drank warm blood, and then cut the sheep's head, posting it
over a piece of installation. People started gathering in the booth,
buzzing with anger. Meanwhile the artists stapled the cloth spilt
with blood onto the wall, like a flag. Then caused a scandal scene --
German artists, who sympathise the Greens, and some
Russian artists and gallery-owners shouted violently in the Kazakh
artist's face, who tried to entrench the bloodbath with some
obsolete references to Wienna actionism, war in Chechnya and meat-eaters
I asked some of the exhibitors and artists for comments. "I'm against
performing [such things] in public exhibition space. An artist
may do anything with himself, but if that affects another creature, an
animal, then that's not art", said Aidan Salakhova, owner of
Aidan Gallery. "We still face the deep and unfortunately irreducible
problem of implementing moral code in local art process. This is
a recurrent error in basic ethics", replied artist Sergei Shutov.

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