Activists Urge Moscow’s Garage Museum to Cut Ties with Real Estate Developer

Residents of Moscow are calling for the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art to end its sponsorship agreement with the Russian real-estate developer the PIK Group. More than 750 people have signed a petition on that blasts the company over its unsavory business practices and declares that its activities are in conflict with the museum’s mission.

Garage first announced that it was beginning a “longterm partnership” with PIK in August. According to a statement issued on the museum’s website, the institution and PIK have a “shared ambition to change lives and spaces for the better, bringing everyday comfort and new experiences to everyone.” The document also highlights both organizations’ “focus on inclusion” and interest in making spaces more accessible to people with disabilities, as well as to families.

Addressed to museum director Anton Belov and chief curator Kate Fowle, the petition claims that PIK “does not aim at improving the environment and people’s lives, but rather at obtaining super profits and enhancing its own image through the patronage of cultural projects.” It also accuses the company of all sorts of skullduggery, including misleading clients, misinforming the public, falsifying documents, and moving ahead with construction projects despite environmental concerns.  

While the details of the sponsorship deal were not disclosed, the institution agreed to give PIK customers free admission to the museum and its events for a one-year period. It also promised them discounted tickets to programming such as screenings, concerts, and talks. In addition, the institution is collaborating with the company on a series of educational events on architecture and design.

According to The Guardian, the municipal government is pushing to rehouse more than 1.6 million Moscow residents living in Soviet-era housing as part of a fifteen-year redevelopment plan, which it calls “the most extensive resettlement project in half a century.” The initiative has residents fearful that officials will force people out of their homes and demolish neighborhoods to make way for high-rises like the ones PIK is building.

Garage is the latest museum to come under scrutiny for choosing to accept funding from controversial donors. Among the other cultural institutions to recently come under fire is the Whitney Museum of American Art, whose current Andy Warhol exhibition is backed by the vice chair of the institution’s board, Warren B. Kanders, the owner of a company that manufactures and distributes tear gas and equipment to the US military and law enforcement officials.