De Kooning works lie on the floor of the Red October Factory, waiting to be hung up.
The curator of the Gagosian exhibition, Sam Orlofsky, was keen to talk up the significance of the two events. "My sort of fantasy or hope is that we will rival the Venice Biennale. The biennale has expanded so much that it has become somewhat gruelling and exhausting for people to navigate. With the Kabakov opening in a different venue, this is like an edited biennale, a best of."
The exhibition, titled "for what you are about to receive," is by far the most exciting modern art event in Moscow this year, even overshadowing the much-hyped CCC Garage. The Gagosian Gallery is owned by Larry Gagosian, a collector who has often been described as the man who changed the art world. There are seven Gagosian Galleries around the world, two of which are in London.
On display will be works by Jeff Koons, Cy Twombly, Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Alberto Giacometti. There is also a planned performance of stunt-motorcyclists, choreographed by Aaron Young.
Orlofsky has wanted to work in Moscow for over a year, but the timing did not work out for the first Gagosian exhibition at Barvikha Luxury Village. He said he feels Moscow is the right place to be right now. "Anytime I recognize a moment where three or four interests coincide -- where the market is growing; where there are interesting spaces that haven't been used before; and where the artists might be excited to make new work that could be introduced to a new audience -- I try and facilitate an exhibition there. Moscow feels like one of these moments."
The interior of the chocolate factory is currently littered with contemporary masterpieces as the exhibit is being prepared. A small, neutral-colored work by Jackson Pollock, with all the texture that you would expect from the grandfather of abstract impressionism, sits near the streaked canvases of De Kooning.
Down the hall is a series of six red and white canvases by Cy Twombly, who was recently described by the New Yorker magazine, as "a slippery figure, not quite of our time yet not of any other."
And in a corner is an oversized Faberge egg by Jeff Koons. "It's a high chromium polished stainless steel turquoise baroque egg with a pink ribbon," said Orlofsky in one breath. "It's like a chocolate Easter egg. It wasn't made specifically for this exhibition, but curation-wise, it's perfect."
On Wednesday night there will be a live performance of motorcyclists, overseen by Aaron Young. The resulting tire-marks and skid-burns from the performance will be transformed into large paintings.
"Organizing an exhibition here has been the most challenging thing the gallery has ever been a part of," Orlofsky said. There are about 100 works on show, 10 of which were made specifically for this exhibition, and many from the artists' personal collection.
It has been a while since the scent of chocolate hovered above the neighboring area of the Red October Chocolate Factory. After the Gagosian clean-up, the space looks like it was always intended to be a gallery. The lighting from the large windows is ideal, and the exhibition doesn't have the ad-hoc sense of local galleries that also experiment with industrial re-use. The white columns with neat tile bases add to the formality of the gallery. "It looked like this before, just dirtier with no air-conditioning," Orlofsky said.
Another noticeable component is the thorough planning, in contrast to many Russian galleries. "These installations will be a much more restrained style of monochromatic paintings using geometric shapes and referring to Malevich," said Orlofsky pointing to some wrapped canvases to the left of the entrance. "While this room [which was empty at the time] is a history of more gestural abstraction."
This is the second time the Gagosian has exhibited in Moscow. Last year, the show at Barvikha was popular but aimed at the wealthy population of Rublyovka. "'for what you are about to receive" is more democratic. "It's open to the general public, and I hope it will be attended by students and artists," Orlofsky said. "I really think everything here is museum-quality and gives people in Moscow a chance to see the type of works that they would see in the museums of London and New York."
"for what you are about to receive" runs from Thurs. to Oct. 25 at the Red October Chocolate Factory, located at 6 Bersenevskaya Naberezhnaya. Metro Kropotkinskaya. Tel. 230-0733.