A secret shipment of avant-garde art has been removed from war-torn Ukraine, and is on display in a Spanish museum.
Two trucks pulled up to the National Art Museum of Ukraine in Kyiv in the early hours of a November morning, only hours before the Russians renewed their shelling of the capital city. Loaded with a large collection of Ukrainian modernist art, they drove towards the Polish border, narrowly escaping another attack in Lviv. They were trapped for a few days by closed borders after a stray missile exploded in Poland, but after nearly a week, the secret shipment made it to Madrid, Spain.
The collection, which consists of over 70 works of Ukrainian avant-garde art, opened to the public on November 29, 2022, in Spain’s Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum. The exhibition is called “In the Eye Of The Hurricane. Modernism in Ukraine 1900-1930s,” and will run until April 2023, when it will move to Cologne, Germany for display there.
The reason these artworks were conserved in the first place is because the Soviet authorities deemed them too bourgeois to be displayed, and so they were stored through both world wars.
“We wanted to act as a protector of these works that are extremely unique and rare, but also to do it by celebrating the value of Ukraine’s immense legacy that has been completely forgotten and appropriated by Russia over the last decades,” said Thyssen-Bornemisza, a daughter of the late Dutch-born industrialist and baron whose collection formed the basis of the Madrid gallery when it opened in 1992.
“This is super important for us as a way to protect our heritage, that we managed to take the works out of the war zone,” says Katia Denysova, one of the exhibition’s curators. Denysova and her fellow conservators wanted to counter Russia’s narrative that all Ukrainian art is really Russian art, so they created an exhibit of art that the Soviet Union tried to suppress.
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