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To Russia with Love: FotoFest portfolio review parks at Moscow's Garage Center for Contemporary Culture

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The FotoFest Meeting Place portfolio review enables interaction between artists and experts. Photo by Jenny Antill
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Daria Zhukova, director of the Garage Center for Contemporary Culture Photo via Image Shack
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The FotoFest Biennial not only offers a sweeping array of photography exhibitions at more than 100 galleries, non-profit spaces, and commercial venues in the Houston area. The festival also culls the work of scores of contemporary practitioners for the associated Meeting Place portfolio review, an innovative arrangement in which photographers present work to sets of discerning professionals — curators, gallerists, foundation directors — and walk away with critical feedback about where their work is headed.

FotoFest launched the model in Paris in November 2010, and now, the Meeting Place is slated for a Moscow debut. FotoFest's landing in Russia forms part of the dialogue leading to the 2012 FotoFest Biennial, which features the theme, Contemporary Russian Photography: Post-war Avant-garde to Today.

 FotoFest's landing in Russia forms part of the dialogue leading to the 2012 FotoFest Biennial, which features the theme, Contemporary Russian Photography: Post-war Avant-garde to Today.

 FotoFest's Moscow venture, being held Aug. 29 through Sept. 2, will be headquartered at the Garage Center for Contemporary Culture. In a nation with an avant-garde art scene growing at lighting speed, the Garage acts as a court of cultural royalty.

Serving as art czarina is Daria Zhukova, the former model, one-time Houstonian and wife of oligarch and culture baron Roman Abramovich (who happens to be ranked the 50th wealthiest person in the world). The tabloid figure turned art entrepreneur has been the subject of media fascination. In a 2010 article in the New Yorker, Julia Ioffe wrote, "Delicately tanned, big-eyed, and full-lipped, Zhukova usually wears an entirely neutral expression reminiscent of an empty tide pool."

Zhukova acts as the director of the Garage, which is housed in a 1926 Constructivist former bus depot. The Garage stands as a contemporary art instant hit, playing host to art by Cindy Sherman, Jeff Koons and Takashi Murakami, as well as a performance piece by Francesco Vezzoli in which Lady Gaga played a Damien Hirst piano.

At the Moscow Meeting Place, over 200 Russian photographers will convene to gain insight on their work from 40 blue chip international Russian museum curators, publishers, editors, photography collectors and heads of photo agencies and galleries. The luminaries will be in the Russian capital from 12 European countries, seven major U.S. cities and Brazil, Argentina and Australia. FotoFest cofounders and co-creative directors Frederick Baldwin and Wendy Watriss will be parking at the Garage, along with Museum of Fine Arts, Houston photography curator Anne Tucker.

The Meeting Place export is also being backed by the media company RIA Novosti and Iris Foundation, a nonprofit conetmporary art organization founded by Zhukova.

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