“Art must live”, says Katharina Vozianova. With a small painting under her arm and a suitcase in her hand, the Ukrainian art dealer fled kyiv in February for Munich. Shortly before the Russian invasion, however, she returned to her hometown – and risked her life to save the art: “We managed to save the paintings in kyiv. We were very afraid that the Russian army come and not only steal and take everything, but also destroy it completely,” says Vozianova.
Because this is exactly the plan that the Russians are pursuing: “They want to get rid of the Ukrainians and their culture, their existence. We were afraid that they would burn everything. But we managed to take the art with us, d first in western Ukraine, then step by step to Munich.”
Painting by Evgen Petrov
The young art dealer stands proudly in an empty office in the east of Munich between rescued paintings. We can see: a woman dragging her husband by the tie behind her, an emaciated dog in the shadow of a wall, a camel with a fat woman in a bikini on her back. The images are colorful and imaginative, abstract or realistic, painted in chalk or watercolour. 40 paintings by contemporary Ukrainian artists have arrived in Munich. Together with director Tobias Klose, Katharina Vozianova saved the art of Ukraine from destruction in order to give artists there a means of subsistence even during the war.
defend the art
Next to Vozianova, several large orange pipes lean against the wall: “As you can see, there are quite a few photos,” she explains. “The best way to transport them safely was with these sewer pipes. I took the pictures out of the frames, rolled them up and then flew them to Munich in the pipes.” Katharina Vozianova did it all alone, laden with art, first on a bus full of mothers and children, then from Romania by plane to Munich. Nothing was damaged, she said – a great feeling.
The art dealer points to a massive statue in the corner and talks about Ukrainian artist Nicolai Belous, who has been separated from his family. His wife and daughter managed to escape. Belous is from central Ukraine and, like many other artists, did not want to give up his studio: “And if someone comes, he says, he will take his hammer and defend his house and his studio.”
Images of apocalypse and peace
All the artists whose works adorn the gray carpet here cannot or do not want to leave their country. One of the images still slightly rolled up shows a volcano with a pool of bubbling yellow lava, into which a group of fat, naked people are throwing themselves, like in a swimming pool. “It’s called ‘Last Minute Tours’ by Ievgen Petrov,” says Katharina Vozianova. “He painted it before the war. It’s kind of apocalyptic. You don’t know, is this the end of the world they’re jumping into or are they just taking a bath? Anyway well, that’s pretty cool!”
“November. Topless” by Ievgen Petrov
Famous painter Ievgen Petrov is stuck in his studio in Odessa. He also does not want to leave behind his art and his life. In one of her paintings in the room you can see still peaceful Odessa and people gathering by the sea. With shining eyes Katharina Vozianova talks about the art scene in Ukraine – before the war: “Ukrainians are very artistic and creative. They have a long history of artists, writers and singers. This is our great cultural heritage, and this applies to to protect future generations. We were afraid that it would be destroyed , but now it cannot be destroyed.
“Art is identity”
Kateryna Vozianova and Tobias Klose have now managed to attend ARTMUC in May and are already in talks with the city to facilitate a “pop-up gallery” near Marienplatz. An “Art Hub” will be created there, which will not only offer art but also an audiovisual exchange with the artists. Additionally, there will be events to make Ukrainian art more visible. It’s something that needs to be taken care of, says Tobias Klose: “If we have a lot of young artists today, a few contemporary artists, it’s identity. It is culture, and it must be protected. And you have to show that Ukraine is an independent cultural state.”
It’s about giving Ukrainian artists a distant perspective. Ten percent of the purchase is also expected to go to aid organizations and the Ukrainian military. As far as the situation allows, Kateryna Vozianova is in exchange with many cultural workers on site and is constantly gaining new ones. But in times of daily war, dialogue about the art trade is often difficult, and one can only hope that the colors of Ukrainian art will continue to shine, find their way out of the rubble and not fade. not: “Of course, the painting will also be influenced by the war,” says Catherine Vozianova.
Works of art by Ukrainian artists who have survived the war are on display from May 13 at ARTMUC to have. And soon, hopefully, in the Art Hub, the ephemeral gallery of Ukrainian art.
A contribution in the kulturWelt show of April 29, 2022 on Bayern 2. You can watch the show’s podcast here to subscribe to.