On 6 October PinchukArtCentre will present Ukrainians with an outstanding exhibition of top contemporary art. The ‘Reflection’ exhibition will bring the work of international art stars like Damien Hirst, Antony Gormley, Andreas Gursky, Takashi Murakami and Jeff Koons to the capital, continuing the centre’s mission of transforming Ukrainians’ views of contemporary art. Thanks to the centre, which opened in September 2006, Kyivites have already seen first-rate work by locals Sergiy Bratkov, Borys Mikhailov, Arsen Savadov and others, and art by cutting-edge American artists like the Falie, Dzine, and Kozydan design teams. We’ve had the chance see work by the leading Brazilian artist Vik Muniz. This summer the centre hosted photos from the collection of Sir Elton John, including pieces by David LaChapelle, Ruud Van Empel and other eminent photographers. The centre also organized the Ukrainian pavilion at the 2007 Venice Biennale, which was a great success among critics, appearing in more than one list of the best presentations at that prestigious annual event. Alexander Solovyov, one of the exhibition’s curators, said he didn’t sleep for nights in the run-up to the ‘Reflection’ exhibition’s opening. ‘Reflection’ consists mostly of complicated sculptures and installations, not just pictures that can be hung on a wall. Great technical expertise was required to make sure nothing got damaged.With this exhibition of world-class art, the PinchukArtCentre is integrating Ukraine into the global art scene
Antony Gormley’s ‘Blind Light’ installation, which consists of a big steam-filled room, needed its own separate space, requiring the centre to open up a whole new storey in its building. Gormley’s works, incidentally, neatly express the exhibition’s theme, reflection. Several of his sculptures, for example, feature highly-reflective futuristic elements (such as ‘Variable Block-Standing Arms and Legs Together’ or ‘Volume Cloud XXXV’). ‘Reflection’ can also mean looking inside yourself in the interests of self-investigation, something that all 20 of the exhibition’s artists treat using different forms, moods, colours and techniques. Damien Hirst, a leading light among the Young British Artists who made a splash in the last decade and a half, is arguably the best-known of the show’s artists. He become famous, or infamous, for his 1991 piece ‘The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living’, which featured a real shark preserved in a glass box of formaldehyde. He subsequently created other such installations using dead cows, sheep and other animals. Just this 30 August Hirst sold a platinum cast of a human skull bearing a diamond-encrusted tooth for 123 million dollars in London, making himself the world’s most expensive living artist. He’s also one of the most criticised, with many complaining that his work is brutal, mercenary, and obsessed with death. But his work is certainly of the moment. Hirst is also known for his ‘spin paintings’, made on a spinning circular surface, and his “spot paintings’, which consist of rows of randomly-coloured circles. His ‘Ariel’ series, featuring butterflies on a pink background and other pieces using butterfly images, are also among the most recognisable works of contemporary art in the world. The PinchukArtCentre show will include aggressive work like cow heads and paintings made from dead flies along with a number of paintings, allowing us to see Hirst from different angles. And we’ll have a chance to see the artist in person, as Hirst is now in Kyiv helping install his work. It’s his second trip to Kyiv, his first time being this summer, when he attended Elton John’s concert on Maidan. English sculptor Antony Gormley will be another top draw at the show. His unusual sculptures, mostly based on the human form, can be found in unexpected corners of Newcastle, Birmingham, London, Liverpool and many other cities. His metal sculptures also sell in top galleries in Europe and the USA. His installations should impress Kyivites, and we’ll be glad if he gifts us with an exciting piece of urban sculpture during the show.
German photographer Andreas Gursky is famous for his epic-sized pictures, which stun viewers with their proportions and their textures. His work “99 CentII Diptychon” (2001), which shows the cluttered interior of a discount store, sold for 3.3 million dollars last February in London, making him the world’s most expensive photographer. He will be presented at PinchukArtCentre by several gigantic photos. The show will also feature paintings by Peter Doig, Mark Quinn, Sara Morris and Sam Taylor-Wood (whose photography we’ve already seen in the collection of Elton John); installations by Jeff Koons, Christian Marclay, Richard Phillips and Pyotr Uklanski; seven works by Mexican artist Gabriel Orozko; and several sculptures by Japan’s Takashi Murakami. Murakami’s work will be augmented by a presentation of Japanese animation. There will also be ‘video lunches’ during the weekends, when art-lovers can eat at the gallery and see documentaries related to the art on display. Local artists will also feature in ‘Reflection’. Sasha Solovyov says that the idea of Ukrainian ‘national art’ is outdated, and that the PinchukArtCentre is trying to integrate Ukraine into the global art scene.‘Reflection’ represents a major step forward for Ukraine’s art scene, and is must-see show for Kyivites.
The local artists chosen for the show were therefore chosen for their cosmopolitan vision, and they have earned reputations abroad. They’re good enough to compete outside their native country. Arsen Savadov’s stunning painting ‘Heart’ will impress viewers, as will the photos of Serhiy Bratkov, who was one of the leading lights of Ukraine’s Venice Biennale entry. Vasyl Tsagolov will show several sculptures and ‘Blue Noses’ and Ilya Chichkan will display their witty interactive installation about basketball and tennis, earlier showed at the Moscow Vinzavod art centre. Work by Oleg Kulik and Oleg Tistol also proved strong enough to win inclusion in the show. If the ‘Reflection’ exhibition is world-class, it’s one of the few things on Ukraine’s art scene that is at the moment. PinchukArtCentre art director Claire Staebler came to Kyiv from Paris last April, and worked on the Ukrainian pavilion in Venice and the Vik Muniz exhibition. Staebler says Kyiv lacks enough good venues for artists to exhibit in, and that the network of galleries here is still underdeveloped. It’s a question, she says, of people’s initiative: Ukraine needs to organise the web of small galleries, alternative spaces, national and public galleries, artsy pubs and cafes and art-oriented media that proliferate in Western countries. She also believes that contemporary Ukraine’s first artistic ambassadors – names like Kabakov, Bratkov, Mikhailov and Chichkan – accomplished a lot by participating in international festivals and showing their work abroad. Art, after all, doesn’t need PR; it’s rather a question of creating good art. Artistic development never moves in a straight line. Commenting on the quality of Ukrainian art, Staebler says that art is always connected with the market. More good commercial galleries are needed here, to bring Ukraine up to the level of China and Russia, if not yet of the West.
REFLECTION exhibition, from 6 October till 30 December, from 12.00 till 21.00 daily excl. Monday PinchukArtCentre (1/3-2,a block, Chervonoarmiyska/Basseina street) Admission free For more details call 590-0858