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Ukraine’s Vibrant Art Scene on the Eve of the Country’s Inaugural Arsenale Biennale

Posted on the 24 January 2012 by Periscope @periscopepost
Ukraine’s vibrant art scene on the eve of the country’s inaugural Arsenale Biennale

Kiev, Ukraine. Photo credit: Adam Reeder

Ukrainian contemporary art has been generating some of the most exciting work in Europe in recent years, with the new generation of contemporary artists exhibiting in such prestigious international venues as the Venice Biennale and Art Basel.

The impetus for this projection onto the international art scene began in the 1990’s, when institutional support of contemporary art in Ukraine began in earnest, with organisations such as the Soros-funded Centre for Contemporary Art in Kyiv and the PinchukArtCentre, which opened its prominent gallery in the center of Kyiv in 2006. These institutions have more recently been eclipsed by the Mystetskyi Arsenal, a huge national museum and art complex in the center of Kyiv, housed in a garrison dating back to the 18th Century.

Director Nataliia Zabolotna, together with prominent curator Oleksandr Soloviov have been working tirelessly to transform Kyiv into one of Europe’s top art destinations, and former president Victor Yushchenko has been appointed chairman of the advisory board. Mystetskyi aims to hold frequent and regular art events and bring into international view talented Ukrainian artists from the various schools of contemporary art.

Alisa Lozhkina, editor of Art Ukraine magazine, describes the trends in contemporary Ukrainian art thus: The modernist wave – those leaning towards abstractionism – Tiberius Silvashi, Anatolii Kryvolap, Aledsandr Zhivitkov and others; The postmodernist wave – artists who began producing work in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s and who are currently at the peak of their art market and and gallery popularity – Arsen Savadov, Illya Chikan, Oleksandr Roitburd, Oleg Titsol, Maksim Mamsikov, the late Oleg Golosiy, and Aleksandr Gniltsky; The generation that emerged during the ‘Orange Revolution’ and which reflects the interest towards political activism and ‘critical’ art – artists groups such as ‘REP’, ‘SOSka’, and other artists whose creative formation occurred in the late 2000’s; The newest generation of young artists, who have come to the forefront of the Ukrainian art scene over the last decade and may be considered the ‘hope’ of contemporary Ukrainian art – Dobrynia Ivanov, Nikita Kravtsov and others.

With the ‘Independent’ exhibition in September and the 6th edition of ‘Art Kyiv contemporary’ art fair in October behind them, the Mystetskyi Arsenal are now looking forward to hosting Ukraine’s biggest and most prestigious art event to date, the inaugural ‘International Biennale of Contemporary Art’ (named ‘Arsenale,’) to be held in Kyiv in May 2012. British curator David Elliott (curator of the 17th Biennale of Sydney, and founding Director of the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo),  who will be the artistic director of ‘Arsenale’ said, “In my opinion, the international art community’s perception of Ukraine as some kind of a post-Soviet hinterland has changed. It is therefore a great challenge for me to organize the first Ukrainian Biennale, that not only opens the unique space of Mystetskyi Arsenal to the world, but also offers a new vision of the country, its art, and its place in the world.”

Preparations are also busily underway in Kyiv as it has been selected to host part of the European Football Championship in 2012, and as this will coincide with the Biennale, the infrastructure for tourism is quickly and radically being transformed to welcome a whole host of new visitors to Kyiv. Alongside the Biennale, Kyiv will be enlivened with a multifarious and diverse program of parallel events. With Lonely Planet listing Ukraine in its ‘Best in Travel: top 10 countries for 2012’, and as  the Sunday Telegraph’s recent article about Kyiv averred, “…. it’s not just its architecture for which Kiev is celebrated: It’s an arts destination, with enough cultural treasures to ensure – even when the sun’s not shining on its golden-domed buildings – that the city can still glitter and sparkle”, the city is set to become one of Europe’s top cultural destinations.

The Inaugural Kyiv BiennaleThe Best of Times, the Worst of Times – runs 17 May – 30 July 2012 at Mystetskyi Arsenal, 10 Lavrska Street, Kyiv, Ukraine, 01010.


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