National Artistry Museum of Ukraine
Heroes – An Inventory.
Opening: December 17, 2014 | 6pm
Ivan Kavaleridze: Monument to Artem, Model, 1926, The National Art Museum of Ukraine, Photo: Milton Friedberg
Michael Fehr (D) and the team of curators of the National Art Museum of Ukraine:
Yuliya Lytvynets, Lesia Tolstova, Oksana Barshinova, Halyna Bielikova
Project working Group: Maria Zadorozhna, General Director
The Goethe-Institut in Ukraine, In collaboration with ICOM
Exhibition: December 18, 2014—March 29, 2015
6 Hrushevskogo St., Kyiv, 01001
Nationales Kunstmuseum der Ukraine
Helden – eine Inventur.
Ausstellungseröffnung:17. Dezember 2014, 18 Uhr
18. Dezember 2014 bis 29. März 2015
Unbekannter Maler: Kosak der Bandura Spieler, Mitte des 19 Jhr., Öl auf Leinwand, 113 x 104 cm, Nationales Kunstmuseum der Ukraine
Helden – eine Inventur
Ein ukrainisch-deutsches künstlerisches Forschungsprojekt zu den Sammlungen des Nationalen Kunstmuseums der Ukraine im Rahmen des Projekts “Zeitmaschine Museum” des Goethe-Instituts in Osteuropa und Zentralasien
Ausstellungsdauer:18. Dezember 2014 bis 29. März 2015
Heroes—An Inventory will show around 180 works from various epochs in the collection of the National Art Museum of Ukraine illustrating heroes, saints, martyrs, and heroic deeds. The exhibition does not, however, seek to question or define which personages can justifiably claim the title of “hero” and which deeds might be called “heroic”. Instead, the works are displayed in the spirit of their traditional interpretation, with the aim of providing historical context for the current debate, which is particularly lively in Ukraine, about the notion of heroism and heroes as such.
The exhibition concept was developed between December 2013 and May 2014, while political events temporarily halted the preparations when the museum, which is located close to the Maidan, had to be shut for several months.
The exhibition emerged from an inventory taken of the museum’s entire holdings (excepting works on paper), some of which date from the early Middle Ages. In the course of this inventory, the museum’s research team identified nearly 650 paintings and sculptures that can be associated with the topoi of “hero”, “saint”, “martyr”, or “heroic deeds”. A series of in-depth discussions led to 180 works being selected for display in the exhibition.
Selection criteria included iconographic legibility, artistic merit, and physical condition. At the same time, the selection had to reflect the character and scale of the museum’s various collections while also taking into account the museum’s spatial and technical infrastructure.
The messages, political or otherwise, of the individual works did not influence the selection process. Instead, all works were included which at the time of their creation were seen or used as depictions of heroes or heroic deeds and by this token found their way into the museum’s collections. An exhibition based entirely on the museum’s own holdings, Heroes also reflects a specific aspect of the museum’s history and development since its founding in around the time of change of the 19th to the 20th century. For the museum directors, therefore, this exhibition is much more than a form of self-reflection; it is an experiment whose results will have a significant impact on the reorganization, scheduled for 2015, of the permanent exhibition.
The exhibition will be housed in the rooms previously devoted to art from the Middle Ages to the end of the nineteenth century. It is arranged in four main blocks based on chronological and thematic criteria, framed by a prelude, an intermezzo, and an open coda:
The prelude showcases a large statue of Lenin, which was recently uncovered after being hidden behind a wall for the past twenty years, and places it in the context of depictions of two other controversial historical figures (Stalin and Khmelnytsky).
The first block features depictions of fictional heroes and of persons awarded the socialist title of hero, juxtaposed with an installation based on numerous images and sculptures lauding Lenin as a national hero.
The second block centers around portrayals of heroes and heroic deeds from the wars of the past hundred years and from the struggle for independence under socialism. These two blocks encompass over half the works in the exhibition.
The third block is devoted to depictions of Cossacks and includes portraits of hetmans (Cossack leaders) from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as well as more recent, romanticized scenes of Cossack life. These are related to imaginary portraits of Hutsul highlanders, an ethno-cultural group inhabiting the Carpathian mountains.
The intermezzo highlights two mythical heroes: the folkloric Cossack Mamay and the personification of Ukraine as a female figure.
The fourth block contrasts portrayals of religious heroes, i. e. saints and martyrs, with pictures narrating the life of Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko.
The close of the exhibition is formed by two contemporary paintings—the portrait of an officer who distinguished himself in the immediate aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster and a scene from a soccer game—that reflect on the relationship between heroism and stardom.
The exhibition’s final room is devoted to discussions of related topics, for instance of the controversial figure of Stepan Bandera, who for some is a national hero (his portrait was displayed at the Maidan), while others see him as a Nazi collaborator.
The exhibition concept and design were developed by German curator Michael Fehr in an intensive dialogue with the museum’s research team; the exhibition architecture is being realized in cooperation with Kiev-based architect Oleksandr Burlaka.
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