«Joseph Backstein is almost a synonym for contemporary art in Russia» (Snob)
«Grand Master Yoda of Contemporary Russian Art» (ArtChronika)
«The curators come and go, but Backstein remains on his place» (Afisha)
The founder and the Director of the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), organizer and mastermind of the Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art, corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Arts (Department of Art History and Art Criticism), art historian, art critic, curator.
Joseph Backstein is a man who has actually created the Russian art market during the ‘perestroika’ time. In 1987 he organized the first exhibition of the Avant-garde Club of the Moscow school of conceptualists, which became the symbol of a new era of the Russian art. He supervised more than 40 exhibitions as a curator; these were striking, sometimes controversial but very relevant exhibitions. He is an author of more than 70 publications about contemporary art culture. In 1996 Joseph Backstein was one of the initiators of the creation of the fair “ART-MOSCOW”. In 2005 he acted as the organizer and the inspirer of the Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art, which became one of the key areas for the formation of a new image of the Russian art.
Backstein has proven that any platform can be turned into a museum under the guidance of the master hand: in 1988 the Sanduny baths acted as the gallery of modern art - the organizers of the exhibition welcomed guests wearing the vestments made of the bed sheets; in 1992 it was Butyrskaya prison, green walls of which Backstein repainted into white with the help of prisoners in order to change the interior from the prison to exhibition hall; in 2007 the upper floors of the “Federation” tower which was under construction and where the audience lifted only in construction helmets attracted his attention.
Backstein name has been used by the authors of the “Dictionary of the terminology of the Moscow conceptual school” to determine “Universal relevancy operator” (Backstein-function): because Backstein himself accurately identifies the main trends and problems of contemporary art.
1987 — Creative atmosphere and artistic process. 1-st exhibition of the Avant-garde Club. Exhibition Hall of the Proletarsky district on the Vostochnaya street, Moscow. Curator.
1988 — Bath (exhibition-performance of the Avant-garde Club). Men's part of Sanduny Baths, Moscow. Curator.
1988 — IsKUNSTvo. Part 1. Moscow - West Berlin, Art workshop Westend / Society of Karl Hofer. Curator.
1991 — Perspectives of Conceptualism. Curator. The University of Hawaii Art Gallery, Honolulu; Clocktower Gallery, MoMA PS1, New-York, USA. Curator.
1992 — Exhibition of Moscow conceptualists. Organized by the Institute of Contemporary Art. Butyrskaya prison, Moscow. Curator.
1993 — Perspectives of Conceptualism. The North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, USA. Curator.
1993-1994 — Stalin’s Choice: Soviet Socialist Realism. 1932—1956. MoMA PS1, New-York, USA. Curator.
1999 — Vitaly Komar, Alexandr Melamid. «Collaboration With Animals». 48th Venice Biennale, the Russian Pavilion. Venice, Italy. Curator.
2000 — Inverse Perspectives. Edsvik Konst Och Kultur, Stockholm, Sweden. Curator.
2001 — On the Way to the Screen. Contemporary video art.. Central House of Artists, Moscow. Within the framework of the non-commercial program of the 5th International Art Fair ART-MOSCOW. Central House of Artists, Moscow. Curator.
2001 — Russian exposition at the 25th Biennale in Sao Paulo. Sao Paulo, Brazil. Curator.
2001 — Russian exposition at the European Biennale of Contemporary Art MANIFESTA 4. Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Curator.
2002 — Video Zone. 1st International Biennale of Video Art. Tel Aviv Cinematheque, Tel Aviv, Israel. Co-curator.
2002 — Angels of History. Moscow Conceptualism and its influence. MUHka (Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp), Antwerp, Belgium. Curator.
2005 — 1st Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art. Curator.
2006 — Norman Foster. “Space and Time”. The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow. Curator.
2008 — Ilya & Emilia Kabakov. Moscow retrospective. “The Gates”, The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts / "An alternative History of Arts", Garage Museum of Contemporary Art / “Red Wagon”, Garage Museum of Contemporary Art/ «Life of Flies”, Center for Contemporary Art WINZAVOD, White hall / “The Toilet” Center for Contemporary Art WINZAVOD / "The tennis game" , Center for Contemporary Art WINZAVOD, M & Y Guelman Gallery. Within the framework of the program "Classics of Modern Art". Moscow. Curator.
2009 — the 3rd Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art. Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow. Curator.
2011 — the 4th Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art. TSUM Department Store, Design Center ARTPLAY, Moscow. Commissar.
2013 — 5th Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art. Central Exhibition Hall "Manezh". Commissar.
2015 — 6th Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art. Central pavilion of VDNH, Moscow. Commissar.
2015 — “Inside the picture. Articles and dialogues about contemporary art” from the series “Sketches of visuality “, publishing house “The New Literary Observer”. Author.
Awards and titles:
Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Arts (Department of Art History and Art Criticism);
Honorable Doctor of the University of Gothenburg in Sweden;
Awarded a medal of the Russian Academy of Arts;
The winner of Montblanc de la Culture award in 2017 for promoting contemporary art.
Education and professional activities:
Graduated from the Moscow Institute of Electronics and Mathematics (MIEM) in 1968.
Finished a postgraduate study of the Institute of the Sociology of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Candidate of Science in Philosophy in 1985.
Director of the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) since 1991 up to the present.
Russian Institute for Cultural research (Federal State Scientific Research Institute), leading research associate since 1991; From 2003 to 2014 - Head of the Sector of Contemporary Art Culture.
State museum exhibition centre “ROSIZO”, deputy general director, from 2001 – to 2016.
Commissioner of the Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art since 2007, honorable commissioner and member of the Expert Council of the Moscow Biennale since 2016.
Member of the expert Council of “The Kandinsky Prize” from 2007 to 2015.
Member of the jury of the independent Sergey Kuryokhin Contemporary Art Award.
Member of the Rating Board of the Russian investment Art Rating 49ART.
Participation in creative and public organizations:
Member of the Association of Art Historians (AAH)
Member of the Union of Artists of Russia.
Member of the Russian Committee of the International Council of Museums (ICOM).
Member of the International Association of Art Critics (AICA).
Member of the Board of Trustees of the “Victoria, the Art of being Contemporary” (VAC) foundation.