The Project

“Domestic art gallery” is an umbrella expression that serves to describe houses and apartments in (post)-socialist countries hosting solo and group shows, artist and curator’s residencies, talks, workshops, etc. that have kept their primary domestic function. Since the 1960s and for decades, domestic art galleries were instrumental to the development of contemporary art in socialist countries such as the Soviet Union, China, and Cuba, and constituted thus legitimate loci for generations of artists. With the dismantling of the Soviet Union and the evolution of Socialism (China and Cuba), they have made a comeback. Today, they are an appealing alternative for emerging artists and cultural activists under the pressure of both modern authoritarian regimes and increasingly globalized capitalist art market. Yet, in spite of their uninterrupted presence and ever-growing importance in these countries’ cultural landscapes, this phenomenon has been largely overlooked, and its socialist and trans-socialist nature barely studied. 

Thus, in this project, our overall goal is to examine and understand, in a comparative perspective, cultural, conceptual, and structural features of mainly post-1989 “domestic art galleries” in Russia, China, and Cuba. This will allow us to study what we have identified as a trans-socialist network formed by these exhibition venues and to demonstrate to what extent these Cuban, Russian and Chinese independent art venues were/are a response as well as a corollary to/of key socialist (shared) conventions across continents such as social housing, centralized art market, views on artistic creativity, collectivism, and social mission of art. We argue that domestic art galleries are bound by an almost uncanny resemblance profoundly entwined with specific, yet-similar post-socialist contexts in which they have emerged, evolved, and performed. Finally, we will assess the impact of new media on contemporary domestic art spaces’ ontology and functioning. 

The ethnographic approach is fundamental to our research methodology. In collaboration with graduate students, we will conduct field research as well as archival research to explain the way domestic art galleries operate in their specific political and cultural contexts. 

This project draws on research supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).