From Kyiv to the Venice Biennale: Ukrainian artwork saved from war

From Kyiv to the Venice Biennale: Ukrainian artwork saved from war

From Kyiv to the Venice Biennale: Ukrainian artwork saved from war

On the day Russia invaded Ukraine, Maria Lanko loaded her car with several works of art and, like thousands of other Kyiv residents, headed west.

One of those pieces, a monumental installation by Ukrainian artist Pavlo Makov, was set to be displayed in Ukraine’s pavilion at the Venice Biennale.

In New York on April 6, the curator told her story at the art gallery of Ukrainian-American Jim Kempner.

Speaking to a room of journalists, Lanko explained how she had to leave behind the massive base of the “Fountain of Exhaustion” and how she worked her way over six days through Romania, Hungary and Austria before arriving at the Italian coast.

Eighty countries, including Ukraine, will have a pavilion at the 59th Biennale, which is set to begin on April 23 and runs through November.

Lanko thinks that now more than ever, it’s important for Ukrainian art to be displayed, to help rebuff the common idea in the West that it is a subgroup of Russian art.

“Nobody can tell the difference between these two countries and our cultures, but they’re not just different, I believe they’re quite the opposite,” she said.

Russia will not have a pavilion at this year’s Biennale, after the country’s organizers at the event protested their leadership’s decision to invade their neighbor.

“There is no place for art when civilians are dying under the fire of missiles, when citizens of Ukraine are hiding in shelters, when Russian protesters are getting silenced,” said one of the pavilion’s curators, Kirill Savchenkov, after his resignation.

Lanko, one of the curators of the Ukrainian pavilion, arrived in Venice with “Fountain of Exhaustion” unbroken.

The work, which has been reconstructed on site, consists of 78 funnels mounted in a triangle.

Water flows easily out of the top funnel, but after being split into the 77 subsequent funnels, it drips very slowly into the collecting basin, “symbolizing the exhaustion on a personal and global level,” Lanko explained.

Lanko’s visit to New York, home to many Ukrainian-Americans and the center of the U.S. art world, also served to raise money for the “Ukrainian Emergency Art Fund,” which she and her co-founders established to “ensure the continuity and development of the Ukrainian cultural process during the war.”

She said that with the support of nearly 200 artists and others in the culture world, she raised more than $52,000 on the trip.