CONCRETE investigates the enigmatic Ruslan Faraev, seeking an answer to the question that no one has answered yet.

Ruslan’s street performers. Image by @ethan_3005

In the basement of the newest and swankiest hotel in Gay Village – the Leven – sits a temporary exhibition space.

Art in Manchester closed last Sunday. The exhibition featured work by Callum Simmons, Tom Fitch, Tarik Hanif and VHVK. The show included sculpture and painting. Simmons’ brightly coloured op art was particularly strong. What’s more, Art in Manchester proved the malleability of the space. The artists erected a wall in the middle of the basement, partitioning it into two rooms.

Artist Callum Simmons at Art in Manchester.

So far, the makeshift gallery has shown nine different exhibitions. Although not thematically linked, each exhibition has featured exciting new work of a high calibre.

A particular stand out was Coming Up, by Fleur Yearsley. Yearsley makes work influenced by David Hockney and Jackson Pollock, making large scale, flat oil paintings that elevate the mundane to gallery status.

Coming Up, Fleur Yearsley

The space is being taken over tonight by Jon Marks. Binary is an audiovisual light installation supported by Test Card. Showing work in this medium is a first for the exhibition space but, given the gallery’s large premise and industrial feel, it lends itself to conceptual and immersive work.

Exhibition of art in new forms – such as light installation – is in keeping with the gallery’s ethos. That is, showing cutting edge work in new forms or by emerging artists. Recent exhibition Great to Meet You’s description read, ‘while most of the artists are at the beginning of their careers, I think it’s only a matter of time before critical and popular acclaim reaches them’.

Great to Meet You, Immi Delbourgo

Interest in the space is growing. One artist, whose exhibition opening on a Friday night was described as a ‘bad hotel in Miami sort of vibe’, put it this way; “every Friday night people are here, and every week, more and more people are turning up”.

All sounds pretty standard. What is less orthodox, and much more difficult to pull apart, is where the space came from. Local artist Danny Jacobs has been closely linked to it, and his business networking event Art Exhibition was hosted at the space. Jacobs’ interest in commerce and its relation to art hints at his involvement behind the scenes, but the scale of the exhibition programme and the finesse with which events have been run suggests there is more to it than meets the eye.

Danny Jacobs at Art Exhibition. Polaroid by crackdracula.

Several months ago five masked people in orange boiler suits could be seen on Market Street. The group stood on boxes which read ‘WHO IS RUSLAN FARAEV?’. When approached, one of the group said, “we were paid in bitcoin to take part in this street performance. I never met anyone called Ruslan, and we were paid before we did the performance”. When the individual was asked if he knew Jacobs, he didn’t know who he was, or feigned ignorance.

One explanation that some people are suggesting is that Jacobs and Ruslan Faraev are connected to a Mr Frank Cohen, the ‘Saatchi of the north’. Cohen is from Manchester and is described as a ‘DIY millionaire,’ having started adult life working on market stalls and making his fortune through a home improvements chain across the north of England. Cohen sold his business in 1997 and art collecting – a hobby since the 70s – became his full time job. Jacobs’ entrepreneurial bent in conjunction with Cohen’s attachment to his hometown gives this hypothesis some believability.

Ruslan’s street performers. Image by @ethan_3005

The truth remains to be seen. In the meantime, Binary opens this evening and next Thursday the multidisciplinary show Jennifer is in Paradise opens. Regardless of who Ruslan Faraev is, it’s impressive the space has built a reputation in such a short time. All the shows are free which further democratises the showing of art. This new exhibition space in central Manchester is definitely worth a vist.

All images are property of the artists. You can keep up to date with Ruslan Faraev – whoever he is – here, get a free ticket to Binary here, and a free ticket to Jennifer is in Paradise here.