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Moscow’s GES-2 House of Culture. Photo: V-A-C Foundation.
Moscow’s GES-2 House of Culture. Photo: V-A-C Foundation.

Teresa Iarocci Mavica Out as Director General of Moscow’s V-A-C Foundation

Italian-born curator Teresa Iaroccci Mavica is departing Moscow’s V-A-C Foundation, the arts organization she cofounded over a decade ago with Leonid Mikhelson, the billionaire owner of Russian natural gas megaproducer Novatek. She is also stepping down from her role as director of the GES-2 House of Culture, the foundation’s sprawling Renzo Piano–designed cultural complex, which opened in December. According to the Moscow Times, she will remain on VAC’s board of directors and work at the foundation’s Venice branch, where she will assist with the staging of “When Gondola Engines Were Taken to Bits: A Carnival in Four Acts” at the Fifty-Ninth Venice Biennale, set to open in April. The exhibition was one of three that inaugurated GES-2 last month, after the originally scheduled 2019 opening was necessarily twice delayed, first owing to plan revisions, and then to the Covid-19 crisis.

Speculation abounds as to the real reason behind the sudden departure of Mavica, whose deputy, Artem Bondarevsky, a lawyer, will temporarily fill her shoes at the foundation as director-general. Word on the ulitsa is that Mikhelson, whom Mavica met when she critiqued his collection in the late 2000s, was unhappy with negative publicity generated this past summer by a massive Urs Fischer sculpture occupying the promenade in front of the building. Described by one arts writer as “the most expensive turd in the art casino” when it resided in midtown Manhattan back in 2015, the cast aluminum work inspired local dismay, though the city’s mayor eventually declared himself a fan, silencing most complainers. Of note as well, Russian president Vladimir Putin, with whose politics Mikhelson is said to be aligned, reportedly poked fun at the complex’s less-than-glamorous origins—one building was previously a Smirnov vodka distillery—as Mikehelson and Mavica led him on a tour of GES-2 prior to its opening.

Mavica, who became a Russian citizen in 2019, is widely known as a forward-thinking contemporary-art curator, not as a political animal. “Politics is thinking about today, and we here are for thinking about the future. Do you know that more than half of our employees were born after 2000?,” she told Artforum’s Valerie Mindlin at GES-2’s inauguration. “This place is about them, and what they make of their history.” Moscow Times reported that several staff members had left along with Mavica.