For over a year, Max and Julia Voloshyn’s gallery space in Kyiv became a refuge and bomb shelter for artists and art workers since Russia’s invasion in Ukraine began. Now, the gallery has been restored to its original purpose as an exhibition space, and it aims to bring a sense of normality to the artistic community and the public amid difficult times.
“The decision to reopen our gallery in Kyiv at this time was driven by a strong sense to support the Ukrainian art scene during challenging times,” the Voloshyns told Artnet News via email.
“Now, as the situation has stabilized, we feel it is the right time to reopen,” the two continued. “We are eager to support both the local community and our artists by providing a platform for artistic expression, contributing to the cultural landscape of our country, and fostering a sense of resilience among the community.” The gallery owners will remain based in the U.S. for now, while traveling between art fairs and running the gallery remotely.
Voloshyn reopened on Friday, April 14, with the group show “Camera Obscura,” featuring works by artists including Krasimira Butseva, based between London and Sofia, Bulgaria; the award-winning Open Group artist collective founded in Lviv in 2012; the Kyiv-born Nikita Kadan and Lesia Khomenko; Brilant Milazimi, who lives and works in Prishtina, Kosovo; the Bosnian-born and Berlin-based Mila Panic; and Vlada Ralko and Yevgen Samborsky, who both are based in Kyiv.
The exhibition, with an obvious context of the war, “is an attempt to show light in the darkness blacking out Ukraine” by presenting artworks that contemplate conflicting emotions and struggles for safety and freedom.
Kadan’s large-scale photographic piece , created with together with Ukrainian artist Anton Sayenko, depicts a closed underpass of a subway station in Kyiv that became a bomb shelter. Open Group’s multimedia project ponders the trauma of loosing one’s home due to the war, and it questions the notion of safety and privacy. Samborsky’s painting reflects the failed promise of the words “never again” that came at the end of World War II.
When the war broke out, the Voloshyns were stranded in the U.S. and uncertain when they would able to return to Ukraine. But the couple has been actively showcasing Ukrainian artists and participating in art fairs around the world, including the recent ARCO Madrid in February and the upcoming Art Brussels this week.
In fact, the reopening plan was already in place in October 2022, but it was shelved when Russia launched an attack on Kyiv. “One of the rockets hit the playground in Shevchenko park, directly in front of the building where our gallery is located,” they said. “This incident caused damages on the city’s infrastructure, we had problems with electricity and internet at our gallery and with the constant shelling throughout the winter, we decided to postpone our reopening plans.”
Despite the adverse circumstances, artists on the ground continue to work. Some of those who fled earlier are also returning home, while others continue to work between Ukraine and elsewhere. Kadan recently returned to Ukraine from Italy, where he participated in the exhibition ‘Artists in a Time of War‘ at the Castello di Rivioli.
The war has transformed the work artists are creating, the Voloshyns observed, as they present “a stronger focus on themes of survival, resistance, and documenting crimes of Russians. These works not only reflect the changing realities but also serve as a testament to the indomitable spirit of the Ukrainian people.”
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