Arsenale 2012 kicks off

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May 31, 2012, 10:56 p.m. | About Kyiv — by Anastasia Forina

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is presenting his Circle of Animals in Kyiv.
© (Kostyantyn Chernichkin)

Anastasia Forina

Arsenale 2012, one of the most anticipated cultural events of the year, kicked off on May 23, pulling together works by global stars such as China’s Ai Weiwei, the U.K.’s Chapman Brothers and modern Ukrainian artists. The exhibition has filled the 24,000 square meters of Mystetskiy Arsenal, a government-run art space created by former President Viktor Yushchenko.
“Works of Ukrainian artists are on display together with the works of world’s famous artists, putting our country on the world’s cultural map,” Natalia Zabolotna, general director of Mystetskiy Arsenal said at the opening.

Arsenale is hoping to eventually become an alternative to the Venice Biennale, an art show that runs in the years between Arsenale’s planned dates. More than Hr 38 million was spent to set up the first Ukrainian event. Organizers are hoping to recover 50 percent of the amount from the state; sponsors covered the other half of the costs.

“This is the first biennale [of its kind]; the works you’ll see here you will never see at any other biennale,” said David Elliott, one of the world’s top art curators who was in charge of the exhibition called “The Best of Times, The Worst of Times.”

Elliott says the artists were asked to describe the past, present and future in terms of art. The majority of the works were created within the last two to three years and you can expect to see anything from huge frescoes to video and photo installations on display.

Here’s the Kyiv Post’s selection of must-see exhibits at Mystetskiy Arsenal on 10-12 Lavrska Street in Kyiv.

Circle of animals

Bronze installation by Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei, an internationally acclaimed Chinese artist, is one of the most influential people in the world, according to the Time magazine’s 2011 rating.
His installation is made of 12 huge bronze animal heads, each weighing 360 kilos standing on two-meter stands.
The heads resemble traditional Chinese zodiac sculptures that adorned the fabled fountain-clock at Yuanming Yuan (Old Summer Palace) in the 18th century outside Beijing.

Video collage by Tracey Moffatt

One of Australia’s leading contemporary artists, Tracey Moffatt has brought videotaped doom and destruction to Ukraine. This fake chaos is partly fictional, and partly made up of reconstructions of disastrous events that feature in popular Hollywood movies.

All clips spanning at least 50 years of American cinema are presented out of context from their narratives, which makes it entertaining in a somber sort of way.

The German Grip – The Revolution of Makhno
Diptych based on Ukrainian history by Stelios Faitakis

Stelios Faitakis, a famous Greek modern artist, painted two gigantic frescoes based on Ukrainian history for Arsenale. Made in the style of Byzantine iconography, the frescoes show the battle for Kyiv between Soviet and German troops during World War II and episodes from the life of Nestor Makhno, who led peasant revolutions in Ukraine in the 19th century.

The diptych is painted on boards that were stapled to two arch-shaped corbels in the main building of Arsenale, and occupies more than 120 square meters of space.

F***ing Dinosaurs

Installation by the Chapman Brothers

The Chapman Brothers are no strangers to controversy in their native England. Famous for their visions of hell, the art they bring to Ukraine is no exception.

Their installation features 2.5-meter skeletons in SS uniforms staring at huge cutouts of dinosaurs made of steel. The whole thing references the viewer back to an infamous Nazi exhibition held in 1937 in Munich.

In 1937, a commission confiscated every work of art that was considered “subversive” from museums and personal collections. The works included paintings by Matisse, Picasso and Van Gogh. The Nazis then organized a huge exhibition called Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art) to ridicule modern art, which, according to Hitler, stained genuine German culture.

Allegoria Sacra

Video installation by AES+F

One of the most successful Russian contemporary art groups AES+F has brought to Kyiv a video of various people waiting in the endless transit lounge. It is projected onto a giant hemispherical screen five meters high and 25 meters wide, and is supposed to be a metaphor for Purgatory.

This installation is the final part of the group’s three-part series called Hell-Paradise-Purgatory.

The name of the work refers to the most mysterious painting of Giovanni Bellini, a 15th-century Italian artist, which is kept in the Uffizi gallery in Florence.

Unnamed, from Industrial area series
Photos by Borys Mykhailov

Borys Mykhailov is a Ukrainian and Soviet master of social and documentary photography.

He is showing 15 big color photos of crumbling Ukrainian factories built under the Soviet Union.

“Nowadays these abandoned plants look like the skeletons of dinosaurs,” explains Elliott, curator of the exhibition.

Other famous pictures by Mykhailov will be on display alongside the industrial plants.

Mystetskiy Arsenal
10-12 Lavrska Street
Arsenale 2012 runs through July 31.
Parts of the Arsenale 2012 show run in other locations in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odesa and Dnipropetrovsk.
For more information visit the event’s website

Kyiv Post staff writer Anastasia Forina can be reached at
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