Since the end of the Cold War and the breakup of the Soviet Union, Kiev’s art scene has lacked global attention, in part because of its proximity to Moscow.
“In Moscow, the gallery scene and the art market appeared earlier than in Kiev and our best artists were presented internationally through Moscow galleries,” said Oleksandr Soloviov, the chief curator and deputy director of Mystetskyi Arsenal. “Even today, when I visit fairs in places like Dubai or Basel, I see our artists are still being shown by Russian galleries.”
There are high hopes, however, that things will change soon. With exhibition space in a 60,000-square-meter, about 645,000-square-foot, former weapons depot, the Mystetskyi Arsenal is looking to become a major contemporary art facility. Although the museum will not fully open until 2014 — and many critics wonder what will actually be housed in the museum because, they say, it lacks a cohesive strategy for collecting — there have already been several successful and well-attended exhibitions held in the grand main hall. There are also hopes that this summer’s Arsenale could help position Kiev as an important capital for contemporary art.
The Pinchuk Art Center, which opened in 2006, has become a major space for contemporary art in the city. Lines have snaked around the corner for exhibitions of works by Damien Hirst and Sam Taylor-Wood. While detractors complain that the shows are mostly focused on international artists and that many visitors come not because they are interested in or understand art but because it’s trendy, the center’s general director, Eckhard Schneider disagrees. “The most important thing is to share the works,” he said. The art center also awards a national and international art prize.
Last year the winner of the national prize was Nikita Kadan, a young conceptual artist who was also featured in the “Ukrainian Body” exhibition. “Socially engaged and critical art became quite strong in the second half of the last decade,” Mr. Kadan said.
And despite the controversy over censorship, many are positive about the direction of the contemporary art scene. “There are many things happening at the moment,” said the conceptual artist Alevtina Kakhidze. “Of course we can criticize some of these things but what is important is we are creating a platform where new artists and a new Ukrainian art scene can be productive and active.”