In Switzerland, two exhibitions are hosting Ukrainian artworks endangered by war

GENEVA, Dec 13 — Europe’s museums are rallying to help safeguard Ukraine’s cultural heritage from destruction and looting. The Kunstmuseum Basel and the Musée Rath in Geneva are among them. The two institutions are currently hosting two exhibitions of works of art that have survived the shelling.

The works in question come from the Kyiv National Art Gallery (GNAK), one of the oldest and most prominent art museums in Ukraine. They are part of the more than 14,000 paintings, works on paper, sculptures and arts and crafts items that make up its collection. The cultural institution has never halted its activities since the beginning of the Russian offensive, launched by President Vladimir Putin, even after its building was damaged in a rocket attack on central Kyiv.

However, the GNAK has partnered with several European museums, including the Kunstmuseum Basel and Geneva’s Musée Rath, to temporarily house some of its treasures. A rescue operation was organized in November, in record time. In just three days, a truck left Geneva for Lviv, in western Ukraine, with emergency equipment and several hundred crates to transport the works safely. “We were very worried about the safety of the collection [during] transportation because there was constant shelling. Now, of course, we’re happy that part of the collection is currently safe and has found its temporary home here in Switzerland,” said Iurii Vakulenko, director of the Kyiv National Art Gallery, speaking to Artnet News.

Visitors can see the rescued artworks in two exhibitions, titled “From Dusk to Dawn” and “Born in Ukraine.” The first exhibition brings together some 50 masterpieces of the 19th and early 20th centuries on the theme of night, including Night along the Don River by Arkhyp Kuindzhi, Scene from Life in Cairo by Ivan Aivazovsky and Nun by Ilia Repin. All the works reflect the particularly poetic resonance of the night in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, “Born in Ukraine” features around 50 paintings created by 31 Ukrainian artists between the 18th and 20th centuries. The exhibition looks at the unique history of the Kyiv National Art Gallery — an institution known as the Kyiv Museum of Russian Art when Ukraine was part of the USSR — and the influence of the Russian Empire, and then the Soviet Union, on the Ukrainian artistic landscape.

In Spain, another exhibition focuses on the cultural history of Ukraine through the lens of modernism. “In the Eye of the Storm: Modernism in Ukraine, 1900-1930s” runs until April 30, 2023, at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid. It features 69 works on loan from several leading Ukrainian cultural institutions, such as the National Art Museum of Ukraine (Namu) and the State Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine. Most of them were transported out of Ukraine in November, as were those exhibited in “From Dusk to Dawn” and “Born in Ukraine.”

“From Dusk to Dawn” runs until April 23, 2023, at Musée Rath in Geneva, while “Born in Ukraine” runs until April 30, 2023, at Kunstmuseum Basel. — ETX Studio

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