Straddling the tumultuous political epochs of Communism and post-Communism and wrapped up in the artistic narratives of Russian futurism, Socialist realism and the European avant-garde, it’s hardly surprising that Ukrainian modern art is now so celebrated, so intriguing and so attractive to collectors. Here’s a look at 10 of the country’s top contemporary artists and where to find them, ranging from surrealist sculptors to the ‘Ukrainian Picasso’.
Alexander Roitburd | Marat Guelman Gallery
Widely considered to have been one of the formative figures of the Ukrainian avant-garde movement during the middle of the 1980s, Alexander Roitburd’s position as one of the country’s top contemporary artists is entirely secure. Over the decades his works have spanned the mediums of film, installation art and painting, while he is perhaps best known for his seven-and-a-half minute media presentation at the Venice Biennale in 1999, entitled Psychedelic Invasion of the Battleship Potyomkin into Sergey Eisenstein’s Tautological Hallucinations, and his oil work, ‘Goodbye Caravaggio’, which remains the highest grossing painting of any contemporary Ukrainian artist to date.
See Alexander Roitburd’s work at the Marat Guelman Gallery, Kostiolna Street 11, Kiev, Ukraine, +38 044 229 62 40
Arsen Savadov | PinchukArtCentre
Known for his distinctive and visceral portraits in the mediums of painting and photography, Arsen Savadov is unquestionably one of the most recognizable of Ukrainian contemporary artists working today. As a self-proclaimed ‘classic contemporary’, his works employ all the grandiose scope and choreography of the old masters and combine it with a kaleidoscopic use of color that’s nigh on psychedelic in effect. His photography pieces have a truly surrealist edge too, like his 1997 work, ‘Donbass-Chocolate’, which shows miners from the Ukrainian east stripped or dressed in tutus and arranged in carnivalesque poses, or the series Love Story—a mind-boggling collage of green parks, conjoined twins and Oriental palaces that’s esoteric in the extreme.
See Arsen Savadov’s works at the PinchukArtCentre, 1/3-2, A Block, Velyka Vasylkivska/Baseyna Street, Kiev, Ukraine, +38 044 490 48 06
Artem Volokitin | Galerie Stanislas Bourgain
Artem Volokitin is a relatively recent addition to Ukraine’s line-up of top contemporaries, having only graduated from the Kharkiv State Academy in 2005. However, the artist’s already formidable array of awards and accolades—which includes a PinchukArtCentre Prize and a youth art trophy from Non Stop Media—belies a real maturity and skill, while his recent joint exhibition, Fear and Hope, in Kiev, revealed a well-honed style that deals head on with issues of violence, destruction and loss in the context of post-soviet Ukraine.
See Artem Volokitin’s work at the Galerie Stanislas Bourgain, 14 rue Notre Dame de Nazareth, Paris, France, +33 0 661 46 79 53
Oleg Tistol | Stedelijk Museum
Oleg Tistol was born under the Soviet yoke in Ukrainian Vradievka in 1960, before moving to the country’s capital to study at the Kiev Republican Art School and finally to Lviv in 1979, to study at the State Institute of Decorative and Applied Arts. With his distinct style of mixed pop art and retro baroque, Tistol has developed an artistic discourse that has continued to struggle with ideas of identity and nationalism in the post-soviet era. This reached its height with paintings like ‘Reunification’ (1988) and ‘Exercise with Maces’ (1989), which introduced an iconoclastic use of symbolism to the narratives of Ukrainian art and extrapolated on Tistol’s ideas for a new national aesthetic that were first were set out in his joint publication, ‘A Resolute Edge of National Post-Eclecticism’, in 1987.
See Oleg Tistol’s works at the Stedelijk Museum, Museumplein 10, Amsterdam, Netherlands, +31 20 573 2911
Vasily Tsagolov | PinchukArtCentre
Vasily Tsagolov’s colorful, dreamlike compositions are renowned for their fearless take on taboo subjects, and have dealt with all the classic sensitive issues from sex to terrorism. The style is instantly striking because of the artist’s unique habit of leaving sporadic blank spots of canvass. It’s as if Tsagolov is trying to obscure his images behind a veneer of imperceptibility; concealing pop art beneath a palimpsest of other artistic movements and forming a finished piece that’s at once reminiscent of Warhol, Picasso and Malevich alike.
See Pavlo Makov’s works at the PinchukArtCentre, 1/3-2, A Block, Velyka Vasylkivska/Baseyna Street, Kiev, Ukraine, +38 044 490 48 06
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