Conflicts & War

Bombs and a military convoy: the journey of Ukrainian art to Madrid

Madrid, Nov 25 (EFE).- Most of the pieces making up the exhibition In the Eye of the Storm: Modernism in Ukraine, 1900-1930s, set to open here next week, left museums in Kyiv on one of the most devastating days of the war that began in February with Russia’s invasion of its neighbor.

“The exposition has been created in very little time and with a very small budget, but it was necessary to tell this story and to get these works out of Ukraine,” Marta Ruiz del Arbol, curator of Modern Painting at Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid, told EFE.

On Nov. 15, trucks carrying 51 works from the National Art Museum of Ukraine and the State Museum of Theater, Music and Cinema of Ukraine rolled out of the Ukrainian capital accompanied by a military escort.

The distance from Kyiv to the Polish border is nearly 900 km (560 mi).

“It was a very tense day, very difficult for the Ukrainians,” Ruiz del Arbol recounted. “When they reach the border they had to stop for nearly 10 hours because a missile ended up falling in Polish territory, killing two people.”

“A lot of courage was needed to get these works,” the museum’s patroness, Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza, told EFE last Sunday on the convoy’s arrival in Madrid.

The exhibit will open next Monday and continue until the end of April 2023.

In the Eye of the Storm demonstrates that much of what has been known as Russian avant-garde art “is really Ukrainian avant-garde art,” Ruiz del Arbol said.

Three Ukrainian curators took part in assembling the exhibit: Konstantin Akinsha, Katia Denysova and Olena Kashuba-Volvach.

“While in Western Europe one genre succeeded another, here everything happened at the same time,” Ruiz del Arbol said, alluding to the extraordinary variety on display.

The exhibition represents a great opportunity to become acquainted with some of the leading exponents of Ukrainian Modernism, including Oleksandr Bohomazov, Vasyl Yermilov, Viktor Palmov, Anatol Petrytskyi and Mykhailo Boichuk.

Many of those artists fell victim to Stalinist repression and their works, like those of modernists across the Soviet Union, were destroyed or relegated to obscurity.

Once the exhibition completes its run in Madrid, it is due to travel to Museum Ludwig in Cologne and the curators expect other institutions to express interest in hosting the show. EFE cs/dr

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