Olena Zelenska addressed the guests of the Ukrainian art exhibition in Vienna: Being at the center of the storm means risking your life every minute but finding the strength to create

Olena Zelenska. Photo: president.gov.ua

First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska addressed the guests of the Ukrainian art exhibition, which opened in Vienna, Austria. From February 22 to June 2, 2024, the Belvedere, a leading Austrian museum, will host the exhibition “In the Eye of the Storm: Modernism in Ukraine.”

It consists of works by Ukrainian modernists from the first half of the 20th century from the collection of the National Art Museum of Ukraine. The exhibition allows viewers to see how international and avant-garde the artistic movements of modernism were in the cultural centers of Ukraine at that time: Kyiv, Lviv, and Kharkiv. The followers of Mykhailo Boychuk, the artist of monumental formats, created their own national school of mural painting. In Kharkiv, Vasyl Yermilov became the main representative of the Ukrainian version of constructivism. In Kyiv, Oleksandr Bohomazov, the leading futurist of the country, developed a style known as spectralism. In the late 1920s, the Kyiv Art Institute became the last refuge for pioneers of modern art, such as Kazimir Malevich. This cultural development was brutally interrupted by the Stalinist repressions of the 1930s.

“The very title of this exhibition speaks volumes. After all, it can be quiet at the center of the storm. But it’s a deceptive silence because danger is nearby. This is exactly what happened to the artists of Ukrainian modernism, whose works are presented in the Belvedere. You will see the variety of colors and the power of lines inherent in modernism, for example, in Boychuk’s murals. And what a contrast – to know that all this was created during the years of the world war, then civil war, Bolshevik terror, and later – Stalinist repressions. What a contrast – to know that the same Mykhailo Boychuk, the creator of his own school, a person who could have given so much to world culture, was shot with his students and wife on charges of nationalism. The Soviet empire did not give a chance to those who loved their people. This is what it means to be in the eye of the storm – to risk your life every minute, but find the strength to create,” said Olena Zelenska in a video address.

She emphasized that contemporary Ukrainian culture and everyone who contributes to it have found themselves in the eye of the storm: “The same destructive imperial force that killed Boychuk for nationalism is now destroying contemporary artists – with its missiles, drones.”

The First Lady called on visitors to spread information about Ukrainian art and thanked the event organizers, as well as the Embassy of Ukraine in Austria and the country’s government.

“Only in this way can we withstand the storm – together, supporting each other. Then we will all definitely survive,” she said.

The exhibition travels through European countries thanks, in particular, to the #MuseumsForUkraine initiative, founded by Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza to help museums, curators, and artists in Ukraine, and is exhibited as part of cooperation between the National Art Museum of Ukraine and the Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum (Madrid), the Ludwig Museum (Cologne), the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium (Brussels), the Belvedere Museum (Vienna), and the Royal Academy of Arts (London).

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