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Source: Wide Walls
The Art World Responds to the Russian Invasion of Ukraine
In 2014, Russia invaded the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine, and this particular event marked the beginning of the Russo-Ukrainian conflict. This specific tension passed through different stages; however, it culminated with the official Russian invasion of Ukraine, which began on February 24th. In the public proclamation of the invasion, the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, said his country intervenes in the act of self-defence.
The whole world immediately reacted, and so far, all the major European countries have condemned the invasion, including those who stood neutral on various occasions, such as Switzerland. The attacks are getting harsher and harsher, the negotiations seem to be challenging to conduct, and the tension between the East and West is increasing.
In the light of the horrific news coming from Ukraine, the art worldreacts by publicly condemning the current aggression. Numerous Russian art figures have publicly expressed their disgust towards the politics of their government despite the fact they could face charges. The chairman of the State Duma, Russia’s upper house of parliament, Vyacheslav Volodin, characterized the anti-war statements as «betrayal of the people». At the same time, the office of the General Prosecutor stated that any Russians assisting a foreign state or organization is threatening the country’s security and could be charged with 20 years in prison.
In our continually updated article, we bring the latest news regarding the art world’s response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Officials Say Lent Russian art, Seized by Finns, Should Return Home
On April 5, the Finish customs, abiding by the rules of E.U. sanctions imposed on Russia, seized lent Russian art valued at over $46 million (€42 million). The shipment of statues, antiques, and paintings, some of them priceless, was returning from Italy and Japan, where it was on loan for several exhibitions. The artworks, which are part of collections of the Hermitage and Tsarskoye Selo state museums in St. Petersburg and the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, were seized last week at the Vaalimaa border crossing between Finland and Russia. However, in a recent development, the artworks, initially classified as “luxury goods” and subject to seizure, after the Legislative changes will be allowed to return because they are not private property. The new changes will allow the transfer of cultural objects in the hope of the continuation of cultural cooperation with Russia.
The European Union Will Allow Loaned Artworks to Return to Russian Museums, Except for Two Paintings
Of 200 Russian artworks on loan to the French exhibition titled The Morozov Collection: Icons of Modern Art at Paris’s Fondation Louis Vuitton, which closed on April 3, two will not be returning home. The exhibition comprised of masterpieces from some of the greatest Impressionist and Modern artists, such as Van Gogh, Matisse, Cézanne, and Monet, was seen by more than 1.2 million visitors. The works belonging to the state collection of the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, Tretyakov Gallery, and Pushkin State Museum in Moscow are under the protection of French law against seizure. However, the Self-portrait by Pyotr Konchalovsky will not be returning to Russia as its privately owned by oligarch Petr Aven who is still under sanctions by the E.U. The second piece to be seized is a Portrait of Timofei Morozov by Valentin Serov, owned by the Museum of Avant-Garde Mastery, the private foundation of oligarch Moshe Kantor.
Helen Frankenthaler Foundation Gives $2.5m in Emergency Grants to Heritage and Artists in Ukraine and Beyond
The Helen Frankenthaler Foundation is giving $2.5m in grants for the Ukrainian artists facing danger and displacement and cultural sites that have been under threat of destruction since the Russian invasion began. The funds will be distributed via partnerships with nonprofit organization PEN America, which focuses on protecting freedom of expression, and the World Monuments Fund (WMF). $2m will be split between two PEN America’s initiatives: the support of artists’ basic needs, networking, and art projects; and the second one will go to the Artists at Risk Connection program, which supports prosecuted artists worldwide. The $500,000 will go to WMF’s efforts to protect cultural sites in Ukraine.
Ukrainian Cultural Site Where Tchaikovsky Once Composed Music Damaged by Russian Forces
During the invasion of the Ukrainian city of Trostianets, which lasted from February 24 until March 26, many cultural sites were damaged by shelling. Among them is the Koenig Manor, the 18th-century neoclassical palace complex comprised of the building Round Yard (1749) and an Art Nouveau villa (1911) which was completely destroyed. Trostianets’s castle was where the world-renowned Russian composer Tchaikovsky composed The Storm, op. 76 in 1864. Since then, the city has held the annual Tchaikovsky Fest in celebration of the connection with the master of classical music. After the retreat of Russian forces, the site will have to be closely inspected because it has been riddled with shrapnel, and the art collection is partially damaged.
Warsaw’s Museum of Modern Art Transforms to Aid Ukrainian Refugees
Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Poland has received more than 2 million refugees. In the second month of the war, Warsaw’s Museum of Modern has decided to open its doors and help Ukrainians through various efforts. Thanks to a number of volunteers, the museum has made great strides in supporting and welcoming people who have fled to Poland. Their long-term plan includes organizing medical supplies sent to Ukraine, preparation of food, stress relief workshops, and language classes for volunteers. The initiative “institution within an institution,” appropriately named by Sebastian Cichocki, Chief Curator, is working on a “counter-propaganda’’ journal titled Sunflower Power, which will help send funds to people who remain in Ukraine.
National Gallery in London Renames Degas’s “Russian Dancers” as “Ukrainian Dancers”
For centuries the Ukrainian people have suffered under strict Russification policies that saw many of its renowned artists, poets, and writers either killed or exiled. In order to reclaim their cultural heritage and identity, Ukrainian voices are calling for a denunciation of Russia’s historic and ongoing appropriation of their nation’s culture. On March 14, the National Gallery in London received a letter from Ukrainian Afghan artist Mariam Naiem urging them to change the name of Degas’s painting Russian Dancers (1899) into Ukrainian Dancers. After closer inspection, the museum has concluded that depicted dancers are wearing the Ukrainian traditional folk dresses and has officially changed the name in honor of its true protagonists.
Hermitage Museum Isolated by Russian Boycotts
As a response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the western world has isolated the Hermitage Museum through cultural boycotts. Among the international institutions that have suspended ties with the museum are the Hermitage Foundation U.K., dedicated to funding and promoting the Hermitage through charities, the Hermitage Amsterdam, and the museum’s International Advisory Board comprised of former and current museum directors. Mikhail Piotrovsky, the director of the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, who has not publicly condemned the war, has stated that the museum will concentrate on establishing international relationships outside of Europe. The annual Hermitage Days will continue to be held in Russia, China, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi.
Sotheby’s and Ketterer Kunst Ban Some Russian Buyers
In a recent development, Sotheby’s has announced it will ban some buyers from Russia and those whose income derives from the country from participating in art sales. With the new anti-money laundering (AML) regulations and the ban on art export to Russia by U.K. and G7, the auction houses are trying to navigate the fluid situation. German auction house Ketterer Kunst has completely stopped all relations with Russian clients. Robert Ketterer, owner of the Ketterer Kunst said:
In order to take a stand against the war, we also decided to stop doing business with Russia altogether.
Idris Khan, Migrate Art, and Evening Standard Collaborate to Raise Funds for Ukrainian Humanitarian Causes
On Monday, March 21, artist Idris Khan in collaboration with Evening Standard and Migrate Art, will release archival pigment print titled I Thought We Had More Time…, the sales of which in their entirety will go to the Ukrainian humanitarian causes fund. The new timed-edition print will be available for £300 for a limited period of 10 days via www.migrateart.com/products/idriskhan. Upon completion of the sale, all profits will be sent to Evening Standard’s Ukraine Appeal. Deeply affected by the plight of millions of displaced Ukrainians, Idris Khan felt complied to help any way he could, stating:
For a moment to reflect. To know you have given something, anything. To stand with the people of Ukraine. To show you are against this war.
Artists Donate Prints to Support the Activist Non-Profit Organization ARTISTS at RISK
Recognizing the risks and dangers Ukrainian artists face every day, a group of international artists has banded together and organized a sale of their artworks to raise funds for ARTISTS at RISK, via Solidarity Prints. Since 2013 the non-profit organization ARTISTS at RISK has helped a countless number of persecuted art practitioners around the world. The latest initiative organized by Adam Broomberg includes artists Nan Goldin, Anne Imhof, James Welling, and Paul Knight, to name a few. The profits from sales will establish emergency travel, shelter, and financial support for the artists in Ukraine.
German Museums Offer Curator Jobs to Ukrainian and Russian Refugees
In response to the Ukrainian humanitarian crisis and more than 3.5 million displaced people, the Berlin-based Ernst von Siemens Art Foundation has established a program offering work to Ukrainian refugee curators for one year. A number of institutions across the country, including museums in Berlin, Dresden, Gotha, Lubeck Augsburg, and Potsdam, are now offering jobs to Ukrainian refugees and Russian curators in danger of prosecution for their anti-war position. Anastasia Yurchenko, a provenance researcher at a museum in Gotha and one of the program’s participants, hopes the program will be an inspiration to other institutions around the world to join the effort and replicate the foundation’s program.
Marina Abramović Will Restage Her Best-Known Performance to Benefit Ukraine
From now through March 25, bidding is open for the opportunity to sit across from Marina Abramović in the restaged performance The Artist is Present at Sean Kelly Gallery in New York. All the proceeds gathered through Artsy’s auction platform will go to Direct Relief’s Ukraine aid efforts. Abramović’s long-time collaborator, photographer Marco Anelli will once again capture portraits of people sitting across the artist. The bids in the amount of $4,000 and $5,000 include photographs signed by Abramović and Anelli. In a statement for Artnet News, Kelly said: «We just feel it’s a huge imperative to get money into people’s hands as quickly as possible.»
JR Gives Tribute to Ukranian Refugee Girl with a Photo Installation in Lviv
With the help of more than 100 people, French street artist JR has unfurled a photographic installation of a five-year-old Ukrainian refugee in front of the National Opera in the city of Lviv. The 148ft photo features a portrait of Valeriia, who has become a symbol of Ukrainian resilience during this turbulent time of the Russian invasion. The installation, featured on a cover of Time magazine, was shown in the city located close to the Polish border. As of this moment, Lviv is overflowing with refugees and is under constant attack by Russian shells. For JR, the little girl represents the future the Ukrainian people are fighting for.
Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Bonhams Call Off Russian Art Auctions
In support of people affected by Russia’s war on Ukraine, Sotheby’s and Christie’s have canceled the traditional June auction of Russian art. The auction, favorite of Russian collectors, was particularly successful last year, amassing £17.7m (including fees). The money of billionaire industrialists and bankers of Putin’s inner circle has been under increased scrutiny since the war began. Many Russian oligarchs have a long history of supporting the art world with generous donations, among them Roman Abramovich and Petr Aven. Additionally, Sotheby’s has organized a corporate and employee fundraiser for the people impacted by the war.
France Launches a Fund to Help Ukrainian and Dissident Russian Artists
Refugee Ukrainian artists and their families fleeing the country following the Russian invasion now have an opportunity to stay in France thanks to the government’s €1m fund. The emergency reception programmer offers Ukrainian art professionals housing for a period of three months in the ministries’ public establishments. In collaboration with Cité international des arts (an artist-in-residence space in Paris), around €750,000 will be invested to establish a telephone help service in Ukrainian and Russian. The French government has also opened its doors to dissident Russian artists and allocated €300,000 for Ukrainian students wishing to enroll at colleges.
Tate Cuts Ties With Two Russian Donors
Under the increased pressure from the public to cut all ties with Russian billionaires, Tate has announced it will stop all relations with Viktor Vekselberg and Petr Aven. The news comes out following the U.S. Department of Treasury’s latest decision to put sanctions on Russian oligarchs. Energy tycoon Viktor Vekselberg who recently has held Tate’s honorary membership title, is worth more than $6 billion thanks to his close ties to Vladimir Putin and former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Following the Royal Academy’s decision to return Petr Aven’s sizable donation, Tate has confirmed the billionaire is no longer part of Tate’s International Council or European Collection Circle.
Phillips Daces Boycott by Art World Figures
Once again, Phillips is facing backlash despite the recent donation of $7.7 million (£5.8 million) to the Ukrainian Red Cross Society from its 20th-century and contemporary art auction. Many call for a boycott of Russian-owned auction house, claiming that their latest effort is not enough. Philips maintains the «business as usual» stand despite the reserved atmosphere at their latest auction preview of vintage German-made Lange watches. Many in the art world feel that the owners Leonid Friedland and Leonid Strunin, who have condemned the Russian invasion and are not subject to any sanctions, should put pressure on the Kremlin.
Hermitage Museum Demands the Early Return of Loans to Italian Museums
The State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg has demanded the early return of several loans currently situated in museums in Milan and Rome. The Hermitage director Mikhail Piotrovsky sent a request instructed by the Russian ministry of culture. The deadline for returning Titian’s Young Woman with Feather Hat, Giovanni Cariani’s Giovane donna con Vecchio di profil, Antonio Canova’s Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss, and Picasso’s Young Woman is set by the end of March.
Two Russian Galleries Gave Their List Art Fair Spots to Two Ukrainian Galleries
Two Russian galleries canceled their participation in the upcoming edition of the Liste Art Fair in Basel in favor of two Ukrainian galleries. The Moscow-based Osnova, and the Fragment gallery, with franchises in Moscow and New York, decided to make this gesture as an act of solidarity with Ukraine. Their places will be taken over by The Naked Room, a Kyiv-based gallery that organized the Ukraine pavilion at this year’s edition of the Venice Biennale and Voloshyn Gallery.
This exchange is the result of a dialog between Ukrainian and Russian galleries. The Naked Room and Voloshyn gallery will not pay participation fees. Some of the Eastern European galleries to be presented at Liste offered to transport the works from the Ukrainian galleried at their expense. Amid the Russian invasion, the Liste Art Fair joined a group of Eastern European galleries urging all exhibitors who took part in the fair to support NGOs that provide humanitarian and legal aid to Ukrainian refugees.
Heirs of Christian Boltanski Cancel the Artist’s First-Ever Solo Show in Russia
Due to the current invasion of Ukraine, the heirs of Christian Boltanski have postponed the artist’s first-ever exhibition in Russia scheduled to open this month at the Manege Central Exhibition Hall in St Petersburg. Titled Esprits, the show was to present the works the artist produced in the last 15 years, including installations, videos, sculptures, and more recent works inspired by Russian history. Boltanski, who passed away last year, was a descendent of Jewish immigrants from Odessa. In regards to that, the representative of his estate stated that «Christian would not have accepted presenting this exhibition in this context,» and added the following:
Attached to his roots, he would have been affected by this conflict that concerns his history. To exhibit in a country that is militarily invading his father’s homeland would be contradictory to his thinking, philosophy, and works.
Following Amsterdam, the Hermitage Foundation UK Also Cuts Ties with the St Petersburg Museum
A few days after The Hermitage Amsterdam announced they’re cutting ties with the St Petersburg museum, the Hermitage Foundation UK did the same. In a public statement, they have expressed their shock over the current military aggression in Ukraine and have immediately stopped all their activities. The foundation was founded in 2003 to assist the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg with fundraising. The UK funds will no longer be transferred to Russia under the current circumstances.
Photographers Are Selling Prints to Raise Money for Ukraine
To express their support to the people of Ukraine, numerous individuals and organizations gathered to acquire funds. The most recent initiatives happened online as several print fundraisers emerge to obtain much required financial support. Have a Butchers and Hempstead May and May Print came out with a charity sale of photographs by artists such as Alec Soth, Jamie Hawkesworth, and Jack Davidson for £50 each. The UK-based organization Fast Forward: Woman in Photo organized an exhibition of works by female photographers from Ukraine to sell limited-edition prints and raise funds. Munich-based community and non-profit space called Neu Workshop and a publishing outfit JETZT will launch a limited-edition run of prints to collect funds.
Institutions Continue to Cancel Russian Artists
The cancelations of Russian cultural workers continue across the world as the invasion progresses. The concert of an acclaimed young Russian pianist was recently canceled in Canada. The music director of a French-based orchestra and the chief conductor at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow was asked to describe his position on the war before his next performance. The renowned opera superstar, Anna Netrebko, was dismissed from the Metropolitan Opera after she rejected to condemn the Russian invasion.
Some artists have distanced themselves from politics believing the arts transcend all the divides. However, under the current state of affairs, many institutions demanded from that the artists who supported Vladimir Putin in the past to clarify their position before performing. This tension opens a larger debate concerning the political positioning of any individual working in the cultural field.
13,000 Russian Art Workers Signed the Open Letter Against the War
Despite the hostile warning issue by the Russian officials that any form of criticizing the invasion of Ukraine will have serious consequences, over 13,000 Russian art workers signed an open letter via Google Docs document demanding the end of the war. One of the signees was Katya Dolinina, a manager of two Moskino theaters in Moscow who resigned after receiving the call from the theatre administration. Some reports suggested that some Moscow Museum of Modern Art staff members who signed the anti-war letter have been fired. Also, under pressure, some have removed their names from the initiative. The art workers expressed their fears by underlining that the invasion “will result in irreparable consequences for workers in the arts and culture.”
Members of the Crypto Community Rally Behind Ukraine
In late February, The Ukrainian government posted on Twitter it would accept cryptocurrency donations. As the Russia-Ukraine war rages, numerous individuals and organizations responded to the call. Around $22 million in crypto has been acquired (including more than $3 million raised via NFTs) to support the Ukrainians. Because of the flexibility of cryptocurrencies, NFTs have quickly become an adequate tool for art communities to support Ukrainian defense and humanitarian ventures.
Olive Allen, a Russian-born crypto-art pioneer, posted a video of herself burning her passport in front of the Russian consulate in New York. The artist offered the clip as a single NFT to raise funds for the Ukrainian cause. Meanwhile, the DAO co-initiated by Pussy Riot founder and artist Nadya Tolokonnikova has raised more than $4.6 million worth of ETH by issuing a single edition of the Ukrainian flag.
Neue Nationalgalerie Holds Fundraiser for Ukrainian Refugees
The esteemed Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin organized a fundraising event to support Ukrainian refugees arriving in the city after fleeing the Russian invasion. Klaus Biesenbach, the director of this institution, initiated the public fundraiser in collaboration with the artists Anne Imhof and Olafur Eliasson. During the two-day event, money, cell-phone power packs, and mobile Wifi hotspots were collected, with contributions from artists, actors, and musicians. The initiative was supported by Gallery Weekend Berlin, the Berlin Biennial for Contemporary Art, the KW Institute for Contemporary Art, the Palais Populaire, and several other Berlin museums.
UNESCO Brings Out Concerns Regarding Damage to Ukrainian Cultural Heritage
UNESCO expressed concern about the demolition of cultural heritage in Ukraine amidst the Russian invasion. The organization stated it is currently mapping the most important historical monuments and sites to protect cultural heritage. UNESCO is also trying to conduct a meeting with museum directors across the country to support the care of museum collections and cultural property.
The public condemnation followed after the damage in the cities of Kharkiv and Chernihiv. At the heart of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, lies the Freedom Square, one of the largest squares in Europe and a site of an important Constructivist architectural complex, including one of the first concrete Soviet skyscrapers. A few days ago, a Russian missile hit a government building on the other side of the square that has damaged the opera house and a concert hall. UNESCO also condemned a missile attack that affected the Babyn Yar Holocaust memorial in Kyiv, the site of one of the largest mass shootings of Jewish people during the Second World War.
Science Museum Group Director Returns Pushkin Award in Protest
Every day another cultural institution or individual publicly condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The most recent reaction in response to aggression came from the director of the UK Science Museum Group, Ian Blatchford, who returned the Pushkin Medal, one of Russia’s highest honors. Blatchford received the medal from the Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin in 2015 for the exhibition the Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age exhibition held at the Science Museum in London. That show was heralded as the best exhibition of Soviet spacecraft and artefacts seen outside Russia. The director of the Science Museum Group explained that he cannot keep a medal received from Putin’s government which started the invasion, regardless of the fact his «admiration for the Russian people themselves, and their cultural and scientific achievements, is undiminished.»
Meanwhile, the institution cancelled an exhibition exploring the development of the Trans-Siberian Railway that was supposed to open at the National Railway Museum in York this summer, along with a smaller selection at the Science Museum in London.
Directors of Russia’s Leading Art Museums and Fairs Are Stepping Down
Several prominent figures running the Russian art and cultural institutions have resigned from their position in light of the country’s invasion of Ukraine. Most of them have stated their decision was voluntary. Still, some situations indicate that several curators and directors felt enormous pressure from their staff over a lack of understating of the current military intervention. In an Instagram post, the deputy director of Pushkin Museum, Vladimir Opredelenov, exemplified the institution’s digital development and other achievements throughout his career. However, his attitude to the current crisis does not coincide with his colleagues from the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation. For that reason, Opredelenov is forced to leave his beloved museum.
Francesco Manacorda, the artistic director of the VAC Foundation in Moscow, also stated he resigned due to the conflict in Ukraine, as well as Simon Rees, the artistic director of the Cosmoscow art fair.
Amsterdam’s Hermitage Museum Cuts Ties with St. Petersburg Flagship Institution
The Amsterdam Hermitage Art Museum, the official outpost of the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, announced the rupture of ties with the Russian institution amid the current invasion of Ukraine. The Dutch Hermitage characterized the Russian decision to start a war as crossing the line. However, they are open to reinstating the collaboration if Russia changes its stance. The museum has closed the current exhibition Russian Avant-Garde | Revolution in the Artsuntil further notice.
Russian Artists Condemn Invasion in Open Letter
On February 25, the online art criticism magazine Spectate published an open letter signed by more than 17.000 Russian artistscondemning the invasion of Ukraine. The unified «No to war!»message, which quickly spread across other Russian news outlets, addressed the war’s negative impact on Russian culture and the arts, citing that «any enforcement of peace through violence is absurd». Even though at the moment, any criticizing of the Russian government is met with swift retribution, the artists were joined by other professional groups who have also written open letters denouncing the invasion, including 5000 scientists, 200 journalists and a number of government officials from major cities in Russia.
Matisse Museum Cancels Loans to Beijing’s UCCA, Citing China’s Ties to Russia
France’s Nord department government, which administers The Matisse Museum in northern France, has announced it is cancelling the planned loan of 280 Matisse‘s works to the Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) in Beijing. The exhibition titled Matisse by Matisse, which was scheduled to open on March 26, was supposed to be the largest showing of Matisse’s works in China to date. As of this moment, the Nord government has suspended all collaboration with the Chinese art institutions as a response to “China’s ties with Russia”. At the United Nations General Assembly on March 2nd, China was among 35 countries that chose to abstain from the vote to denounce Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The NFT Community Organizes to Raise Funds for Ukraine
As a response to the plea for financial assistance by the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the blockchain community has quickly come together in raising funds for the invaded country. Empathizing with the plight of the Ukrainian people, the artist Kenny Schachtermade an Instagram post, calling for NFT donations. In collaboration with David Cash, the head of the NFT design firm in Toronto and numerous established NFT artists, Schachter launched a collection titled NFTUkraine. All profits from the sale will be donated to the official Ukrainian government-sanctioned ETH account, which has already received more than $20 million in crypto for the medical supplies, arms, and more.
Phillips Will Donate the Full Net Proceeds From Its London Sale to the Ukrainian Red Cross Society
Phillips, owned by the Mercury Group, a Moscow-based luxury retail company, has recently come under fire by art collectors, calling for a boycott of the auction house and asking for more transparency concerning their ownership. In an Instagram post published this Sunday, Philips has condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Furthermore, on March 3, it has announced it will donate $7.7 million (£5.8 million), the total net proceeds of its 20th-century and contemporary art evening auction in London, to the Ukrainian Red Cross Society. Phillips’s CEO, Stephen Brooks, said in a statement:
The Ukrainian Red Cross Society is doing incredible work to support and protect people in the region, and it is our hope that the buyer’s premium and vendor’s commission from tonight’s evening sale will help this extraordinary charity as they continue their lifesaving work.
Russian Oligarch Vladimir Potanin Steps Down From the Guggenheim’s Board
After two decades serving on the board of the Guggenheim Museum, Russian oligarch Vladimir Potanin has resigned from the position. In recent years the President of Norilsk Nickel, the number one producer of high-grade nickel, has amassed fortunes thanks to the close connection with Vladimir Putin. Last week Potanin, who has a net worth of $25.2 billion, was present at the meeting Russian President and leading oligarchs in Kremlin. Up to date, he has not made any comments regarding the invasion of Ukraine. While The Royal Academy in London has announced it will return the donation of the former member of its board, oligarch Petr Anton, the Guggenheim Museum has not made any statements regarding Potanin’s donations.
German Foundation Urges Tretyakov Gallery to Close Joint Exhibition and Return Works to Germany
Privately owned Foundation for Art and Culture from Bonn that organized the exhibition Diversity United, urged their partner, the Tretyakov Gallery to close the Moscow iteration of the project amidst the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The exhibition includes the works by 90 artists from 34 countries, emphasizing contemporary European art, and was scheduled to be presented in three cities — Berlin, Moscow, and Paris. In an email to the director of the Tretyakov Galler, Zelfira Tregulova, the chairman of Foundation for Art and Culture, Walter Smerling, underlined that their decision to withdraw the exhibition comes «as a gesture of protest against Vladimir Putin’s decision to wage war against Ukraine.»
The decision is in no way directed against you and your dedicated staff. The collaboration was a very valuable experience for us all. We still believe in art being a way of building bridges, but this ends when war begins.
The Russian-Owned Auction House Phillips Condemns the Invasion
The public condemnation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine spreads rapidly from one day to another to the extent of significant economic sanctions, which may severely endanger Russian-owned businesses. Regardless of the sanctions, some have posted statements supportive of Ukraine. Such is the case with the Russian-owned auction house Phillips which posted Ellsworth Kelly‘s blue and yellow abstraction that responds to the Ukrainian flag, accompanied by a message from their Chief Executive Officer, Stephen Brooks:
We at Phillips unequivocally condemn the invasion of Ukraine. Along with the rest of the art world, we have been shocked and saddened by the tragic events unfolding in the region. We call for an immediate cessation of all hostilities in the strongest possible terms.
The Ateneum Art Museum Stops the Loan of Akseli Gallen-Kallela’s Works to Russia
As a response to the current invasion of Ukraine, the Ateneum Art Museum decided not to loan works by the renowned Finish painter, Akseli Gallen-Kallela, to the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. The two institutions have collaborated for years; however, now it seems that the collaboration has come to an end, as they cite the uncertain safety of the works. The Ateneum Art Museum and the State Tretyakov Gallery were preparing the first retrospective of Akseli Gallen-Kallela in Russia. The artist’s landscape paintings and a selection of prints should have been loaned from the collections of the Finish museum for the exhibition. Marja Sakari, the museum director of the Ateneum Art Museum, briefly commented:
With ongoing hostilities, we cannot rely on the guaranteed safety of the works. Words of peace have officially turned into acts of war, and this makes it impossible for us to loan out our works.
Metropolitan Opera Cuts Ties with Pro-Putin Artists
The cultural sector on a global scale has publicly condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine, including the Metropolitan Opera, which decided not to collaborate with performers or other institutions that have supported the Russian president Vladimir Putin. The general manager of the Metropolitan Opera, Peter Gelb, explained that this esteemed institution employed Russian singers and worked closely with the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow. However, under the current circumstance, they feel obliged to support the plight of the people from Ukraine.
Pussy Riot Founder Launches NFT Sale to Help Raise Funds for Ukraine
The Russian punk band/activists Pussy Riot, known for being persecuted by the Russian government for their criticism, has launched an NFT sale to raise funds for the Ukrainian charity organization Come Back Alive. They have teamed with a few cryptocurrency groups to mint an NFT of the Ukrainian flag that will be sold this weekend via the UkraineDAO platform. Pussy Riot have twitted the following:
Our goal is to use what we’re good at, the web, to assist Ukrainians as they cope with the Russian invasion of their country. We’ll be buying an NFT of the Ukrainian flag.
The Ukrainian Museum Burns Down During Russian Invasion
Amidst the most recent aggravation of the current Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Museum of Local History in the town of Ivanka has burned down. The museum was reportedly set on fire by invading Russian forces on Sunday. Established in 1981, the Museum of Local History is a small exhibition unit that housed 25 works by the leading Ukrainian representative of naïve art, Maria Prymachenko, all of which have reportedly been destroyed. Her vibrant imagery dazzled Picasso, found its way on Ukraine’s postage stamps, and was celebrated by Unesco, which declared the year 2009 as the year of Maria Prymachenko.
A great deal of her oeuvre is in the National Museum of Applied Folk Art holdings in Kyiv and is currently not under threat. However, the demolition of the Museum of Local History is obscene and seen as irreparable.
Ukraine Calls for Sanctions Against the Russian Art Sector
In the light of the invasion, the established Ukrainian art workers, including the Minister of Culture, Oleksandr Tkachenko, have called for a ban on Russian participants in international exhibitions, art fairs, musical and film festivals. They demand the projects supported by the Russian government to be sanctioned, Russian citizens removed from the supervisory boards and cultural partnerships, banned from competing in international competitions, and all the media coverage about Russians aborted.
Garage Museum of Contemporary Art and GES-2 Seize Work
In defiance of the invasion conducted by Russia, a privately-owned Garage Museum of Contemporary Art from Moscow announced the termination of their activity until the aggression in Ukraine has ended. From the very start, this particular venue has been functioning on the premises of internationalism and the plurality of voices. In the statement given, the team has noted that they will fulfil the obligations to the artists whose projects are postponed hoping the conflict will come to an immediate end.
Meanwhile, the Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson announced that his performances based on the recreation of the American soap opera Santa Barbara would be postponed. This work was presented at the grand opening of the GES-2 exhibition space in Moscow as a showcase for the V-A-C Foundation of Leonid Mikhelson, a billionaire affiliated with Putin. Kjartansson stated the following:
It is not possible to have this work when this horror begins. The work is about the beginnings of this Russia created after the Soviet Union. And so ended this Russia that was created after the Soviet Union. Now it has just become like a ‘full-blown fascist state.
A few days ago, V-A-C announced the closure of their exhibitions and other public programs at GES-2 and at V-A-C Zattere in Venice. Dmitry Vilensky, a member of the politically charged Russian art collective Chto Delta, said that the majority in the Russian contemporary art scene condemns «the reactionary turn in Russian cultural politics and certainly do not support any military [action] and colonialism in Ukraine, but because of strict control of the public sphere, it is difficult to articulate your disagreement publicly, apart from posts on social media.»
The Russian Pavilion Pulls Out of Venice Biennale Amid War in Ukraine
In response to the invasion of Ukraine, the Russian Pavilionofficially withdrew from the Venice Biennale. The whole team, consisting of the artists Alexandra Sukhareva and Kirill Savchenkov and curator Raimundas Malašauskas, stated they were not going to represent the country in the exhibition. The Russian Pavilion hasn’t re-elected another artist and curator, and most likely, will not participate in the exhibition at all. In a joint statement posted on social media, Sukhareva and Savchenkov underlined that «there is no place for art when civilians are dying under the fire of missiles when citizens of Ukraine are hiding in shelters when Russian protesters are getting silenced».
Pavlo Makov, the Artist Representing Ukraine in the Venice Biennale, Sells Art to Help Arm the Troops
The conceptual artist Pavlo Makov who was supposed to represent Ukraine at the Venice Biennale pavilion this spring, recently stated that, in the last few years, he was involved alongside other artists in supporting the Ukrainian defense efforts. For instance, the soldier in the Donbas region and the artist’s friend used money from a sale of Makov’s artwork to buy weapons. He also expressed his discontent that European artists continued working with Russia after the annexation of Crimea while barely commenting on the ongoing aggression.
Ukraine’s Venice Biennale Pavilion Is Put on Hold
Right after the Russian invasion of Ukraine started, the curators of the Ukrainian pavilion at the upcoming Venice Biennale have temporarily aborted the preparations for the exhibition. In a collective statement posted on social media, the artist Pavlo Makov, whose work was supposed to be displayed, and the curators Lizaveta German, Maira Lanko, and Borys Filonenko noted they are not in immediate danger. Still, as they explained, the situation was critical and was changing every minute. They explained that, under these circumstances, they couldn’t continue working on the pavilion project
We cannot confirm yet that our project will be completed, but we can promise that we will do everything possible to save unique artwork produced by Pavlo Makov and our big team, especially for the upcoming biennial during the past five months, and to represent Ukraine in the international contemporary art scene the way it deserves to be represented.
Makov was supposed to present an updated version of his work The Fountain of Exhaustion from 1995. The wall installation with water pouring from bronze funnels was initially made to address «the absence of vitality in society after the Soviet Union». The artist also added:
Now, so many years later, the situation is changed, and it is about global exhaustion. We are facing a lot of existential problems, not only with nature but also via fake news and politics.
The Art World Shows Solidarity and Condemns Invasion
The condemnation of the Russian aggression came from international art figures as well. The editor of The Calvert Journal, Nadia Beard, wrote that this publication that chronicles the happenings in Russia, Ukraine, and the East would be suspended.
One of the world’s most renowned artists, Marina Abramovic, posted a video calling for solidarity with Ukraine. The prolific performer underlined that she shares full solidarity with the Ukrainian people and that the attack on Ukraine is an attack on all of us.
The International Council of Museums (ICOM) also posted an announcement that condemns this violation of Ukrainian sovereignty. ICOM expressed concern for the threats to cultural heritage amid the conflict and the risks faced by museum professionals.
The Metropolitan Opera also announced that the institution would not collaborate with performers or other institutions that support the Russian President, Vladimir Putin.
Ukrainian Museums Mobilize to Protect Their Collections
Amidst the Russian invasion, the Ukrainian museums have been faced with a state of emergency and have been giving their best to protect collections. The institutions started returning loans, hiding artworks in basements and also reopening as bomb shelters. The workers at the National Museum of the History of Ukraine in Kyiv spent 12 hours moving objects into storage, while the Odesa Fine Arts Museum put up barbed wire and hid art in the basement. The Lviv Municipal Art Center, the institution located near the Polish border, opened its doors for all those refugees with coffee, tea, cookies, and cats, and temporary stay in the city.