Head of the Organising Committee
Sanna Turoma
sanna.turoma [at] helsinki.fi

Conference Coordinator
Kaarina Aitamurto
kaarina.aitamurto [at] helsinki.fi

Conference Secretary
Maarit Elo-Valente
maarit.elo-valente [at] helsinki.fi

Conference Intern
Miikka Piiroinen
miikka.piiroinen [at] helsinki.fi

Conference e-mail:
fcree-aleksconf [at] helsinki.fi

The Aleksanteri Institute

Unioninkatu 33 (P.O. Box 42)
00014 University of Helsinki
phone +358-(0)50-3565 802

aleksanteri [at] helsinki.fi


Past Aleksanteri Conferences

Julia Simpanen (University of Tampere, Finland)

Global Art Forums and Foreign Policy: The Soviet Union and Russia in Venice Biennales

This paper studies the function of global art forums as resources and tools of Russia's foreign policy. As a case-study I analyse Russia's agency in the Venice biennale, which along with its global nature is considered to be one of the primary forums of contemporary art today. Global platforms offer unique opportunities for implementing a country's foreign policy through public diplomacy and soft power, a term developed by Joseph Nye (1990) and also applied in the Russian discourse (see e.g. Andreev 2014, Lebedeva 2014, Silaev 2014, Filimonov 2010). Record-breaking sales of Russian paintings at the leading auction houses in the recent years demonstrate increased interest towards Russian art, which has added new audiences and actors to the transnational field of art, highlighting especially Russian agency (see eg. Aleksandrov 2009, Markina 2014, Miziano 2014). Along with the commercial dimension, culture's political potential has also been recognised on the governmental level: new principles of Russian cultural policy were announced in 2014, indicating a trend of culture's institutionalisation to serve the state's political objectives. I will analyse Soviet and Russian agency in Venice Biennales by focusing on the construction and development of the Russian pavilion and various actors contributing to it, e.g. selected artists, commissars, curators and funding structures starting from 1914, when Russian pavilion was opened for the first time. My paper asks what role has the Venice biennale played in Russia's foreign policy toolkit and what function it performs today. The empirical underpinnings of the research utilise state-level documents, interviews of Russian actors involved in the Russian pavilion and Russian media texts related to the Venice biennale. This study is essential for exploring the nature of Russian exhibitions and, consequently, Russia's soft power potential.