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An Expert’s View of Today’s Most Promising Ukrainian Artists

The art historian and collector Eduard Dymshyts shares his views on how Russia's full-scale war has affected the Ukrainian art scene and is influencing emerging young artists

Jun. 14, 2023

In this exclusive interview with Kyiv Post, Eduard Dymshyts the influential commentator on art in Ukraine comments on who he regards as being the most valuable Ukrainian artists, how the war is influencing art in Ukraine, and identifies some of the most promising among the latest generation of artists.

Ukraine is still appearing in the headlines of the world media. To what extent has this affected the popularity of Ukrainian art worldwide?

It's had a strong influence because I hadn't seen such an interest in Ukrainian art in the previous twenty-five years. Something similar happened when Ukraine became independent in 1993-94 years. 

At that time, Ukrainian exhibitions traveled abroad very actively, while twin cities exchanged cultural programs and individual fine art exhibitions. Now we have a surge of interest in Ukrainian art. Unfortunately, the subject matter is not good, but the war has happened, and it has increased attention toward Ukraine.

Which Ukrainian artists are most valued in the world? 

Before the war, there was a clear tendency to pay attention to those stylistic trends that were influencing the development of art in the twentieth century. That's why the Ukrainian avant-garde was so much in demand. 

I always paid attention to the works of, for example, Kazimir Malevich, Vasyl Yermilov, Anatol Petrytsky, the Ukrainian Boychukists, Oleksandr Bogomazov, and Oleksandra Ekster. Those who were working in the avant-garde style. 

Although it seems that the trend will change somewhat because, for example, the popularity of works by the outstanding naive Ukrainian artist Maria Prymachenko which is very actively in demand today. I personally made an exhibition of my collection [of her work] at the Sheptytsky National Museum in Lviv. The effect was like a bomb because people couldn't enter the museum freely. They had to wait for twenty to thirty minutes to buy a ticket at the ticket office. The exhibition lasted for three months, and throughout time, interest in the exhibition remained as high. 

Today we have an offer from the Warsaw Museum of Modern Art and a preliminary offer from Zagreb in Croatia [to exhibit her work]. If everything goes according to plan, this exhibition will go to Poland, to Croatia.

Your collection includes most of Maria Prymachenko's paintings, right?

I do have many works by Maria Prymachenko in my collection. I think it's about two hundred works, it's an extensive collection, and I've been collecting it for over thirty years. So, this is a precious part of my collection.

I've always loved this artist, ever since I was a student. But I have different artists in my collection that I also love. For example, Mykola Gluschenko. I have an extensive collection and a book of his works. I have produced a catalog of an exhibition from my collection and the collection of the Sheptytsky Museum in Lviv, which was planned on the eve of the war in 2021. Under different circumstances printing the catalog was delayed, and the book has appeared only now. However, I think that the catalog will be relevant today, tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow. It's a new edition of fine art that connoisseurs have not yet seen. In parallel, there is one more book with Maria Prymachenko’s works that has been published. In parallel, there is one more book that has been published. It was presented a week ago at the National Folk Decorative Art Museum. It's a fascinating series. 

You have a sense of talented artists. Who else is interesting from the new generation? Which artist do you consider the most promising?

The new generation is already affected by the current situation. Before the war, popular artists such as Zhanna Kadyrova, Nikita Kadan, and Artem Volokitin, who came to the fore in the 90s, occupied the highest levels of the hierarchy and were well-known and called young artists. We are now seeing young artists who are nineteen, twenty, and twenty-one years old. 

If one goes to the Ukrainian House and looks at the exhibition, one will see works by a number of quite skilled artists such as Katya Libkind, Oleksandr Kurmaz artists, and others. A hundred artists are represented, and you will find new names producing interesting works. So, it seems to me that this is a dynamic process. However, those who are twenty years old now cannot say that this is an established hierarchy. It's emerging in principle, and there are a lot of interesting works.

How has the war affected the work of Ukrainian artists, in your opinion?

I think in different ways. Like people's lives, it has affected them in different ways. There was an initial shock. If you look at the exhibition at the Ukrainian House, it is laid out chronologically and divided in two main areas work from the first six months of the war and then the second six months. 

We can see almost no work [was done] in the first three months. That is, people did almost nothing. They were experiencing what was happening. There were a lot of things going on. As I understand, some people went out to focus on domestic issues and rescue children and the elderly. It was not a good period around February, the end of February, March, and April. 

However, once the first reflections appeared, it all went on differently for everyone. I saw a lot of works which reflect on the events, the language is direct, in particular the air of alarm.  

What Ukrainian exhibitions do you consider the most interesting abroad at the moment? What would you recommend our viewers to visit?

There were two exhibitions on the Ukrainian avant-garde in Cologne at the Ludwig Museum, an exhibition on Ukrainian art in Dresden - these are large-scale and serious exhibitions involving museum works, and, on a smaller scale a Futurama exhibition in Tallinn.