Arts & Entertainment

New York’s Ukrainian Museum: Repository for a culture under threat

By Nora Quintanilla

New York, Oct 7 (EFE).- Located in a modest red-brick building in New York City’s East Village neighborhood, The Ukrainian Museum is the largest institution of its kind located outside that Eastern European country and the repository of a cultural legacy now under threat from foreign invasion.

The museum’s director, Peter Doroshenko, a second-generation immigrant born in Chicago, told Efe he feels a “great responsibility” to represent “what’s happening at museums in Ukraine.”

To that end, he led Efe on a tour of the museum’s most recent exhibition, “Impact Damage,” a dark, silent space in which just a few paintings, sculptures and artifacts can be made out in the light from documentary videos on the ongoing war triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The images filmed by Babylon’13, a collective of cinematographers and activists, include those of refugees fleeing the war and soldiers in the trenches.

In the faint light, visitors can perceive objects such as the traditional embroidery of a 19th-century dress or a Soviet-era political poster.

Doroshenko said the exhibit aims to convey the fact that 99 percent of Ukraine’s museums are currently closed.

He said he is in contact with many museum directors in Ukraine and is promoting a rotating exhibition to tell their stories and the work they are doing to safeguard their collections.

That New York museum also is paying tribute to Maks Levin, a photojournalist who was killed by Russian troops near Kyiv during the first month of hostilities, according to Reporters Without Borders.

An exhibition is showcasing around 50 of his final photos, accompanied by an explanatory map of the conflict.

Although politics is very much front and center at the Ukrainian Museum, that institution also is home to a second-floor gallery with surrealist paintings by 91-year-old Ukrainian poet and artist Emma Andijewska and an underground gallery with ceramics by artist Slava Gerulak that were inspired by feminine figures from Ukrainian folklore.

If possible, the museum will be further enhanced in 2024 by a new exhibition of the work of Maria Prymachenko (1909-1997), a Ukrainian folk art painter who worked in the naive art style.

An icon of Ukrainian identity, she was in the news after 30 of her works were burned in a Russian bombing raid near Kyiv that damaged the museum housing them.

That bombardment is evidence of Russian attempts to destroy Ukrainian culture, according to Doroshenko, who said his institution is promoting a program to enable threatened museums in Ukraine to receive computers, access cloud services and electronically register their collections.

After 11 years at the helm of the Dallas Contemporary art museum, Doroshenko said his challenge now is to expand the Ukrainian Museum’s offering by highlighting Ukrainian graphic design, architecture, fashion and cinema.

Above all, he added that the goal is to create a multi-disciplinary organization that is unafraid to show the best of what Ukrainians and the Ukrainian diaspora have to offer. EFE


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