The ICA was initiated by a group of artists, art critics and art theorists in 1991, with the aim of organizing exhibitions, research and education projects in the field of visual arts. Joseph Backstein, the founder and Director of ICA: 

“In 1990 I was co-curating the first large-scale exhibition of Russian art in the USA, in Boston. The exhibition was titled Between Spring And Summer, Soviet Conceptual Art in the Era of Late Communism. I was very impressed by the way exhibition and education processes were organized in America”. 

Upon returning to Moscow, Backstein, together with several of his colleagues, registered the Institute of Contemporary Art in 1992.

The ICA quickly became a platform where lively discussions took place around events, small projects and exhibitions; these discussions were in themselves an important contribution to formation of a new intellectual atmosphere around contemporary art culture. The main purpose of all of the initiatives of the ICA have been to reintegrate Russian art into the international art world's structures, whether by holding debates and discussions about new tendencies, organizing masterclasses, exhibitions and small projects, or by presenting interesting works by foreign artists in Russia. The association of the Director, as the founder and Artistic Director of the Moscow Biennial and curator of many other international art exhibitions in Moscow and abroad, extended this ambition into the international art world.

The Institute has always paid special attention to its educational program “New Artistic Strategies”. The system of academic art education in our country through Art Academies was formed in XVIII century and has not changed much since then. While this brings certain advantages, as many basic professional skills are persistently reproduced, it is not adaptable or flexible in its response to rapid developments or changes in the contemporary art field. The “New Artistic Strategies” is therefore a unique programme in Moscow to reflect upon these changes for young and developing artists and it is a vital extension of their training and entry into the internationalism of the contemporary art world. The “New Artistic Strategies” program, in this respect, should be regarded as complementing but also extending the courses offered by existing art institutions.