Why We Build a Research Hub on Ukrainian Contemporary Art

If we want to be able to understand what Ukrainian art is about and how it has been a driving force for civil society throughout the last 30 years, now is the time to remember.


Björn Geldhof


Coming to Ukraine about seven years ago and living here ever since has been a journey filled with wonderful encounters and exiting artistic adventures. I discovered many incredible artists and personalities and heard about epic exhibition project that took place by before my arrival to Ukraine (such as the exhibition Alchemic Surrender in 1994). But it was also often a mystery. Some narratives that live within the art community I could not trace back to works or historical facts.


But I love stories! Myths are as powerful as real historical facts. They bring life to an imagination and for artists, they are often as important as the work itself. Those stories drove both the artist community and civil society forward. They made me understand better how to approach the Ukrainian imagination and emotions.


But are mythologies and an understanding for the emotional brain really enough to remember? I personally lacked historical facts. There is a lack of research and reliable information that did not align itself with a group, movement or mythology. The historification of the late 80ties till today is incomplete. To be frank, it has never really been made. A lot of information is still conserved in the hands of wonderful people. They each hold an important part of the puzzle, but cannot preserve nor publish it all alone. Other material just got lost or needs to be retraced in conversations, old photo books or disappearing magazines.


And how important is that history! How important is it to archive and preserve those facts! It stands at the heart of what Ukrainian art is about and it will enable us to have a factual discussion and reading of history.


To give an example: I do not support the theory of the interrupted art history. I strongly believe that there were socio-economic driving forces that united movements and influenced, over time and place, artists in Ukraine. Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps Ukrainian art is an interrupted history. But we need a historical data and research with an academic approach to enable any sensible discussion on this topic! We need that research to de-mythologize and emancipate mythologies at the same time. But most of all we need it as a tool for future generations. We need it as a tool for scholars and artists alike.


So let’s take up this challenge together! At the PinchukArtCentre we started by establishing the Research Platform where a large group of researchers makes fundamental research and build an archive. It’s an open invitation to join in, to build a tool to inspire new creations and support reconsiderations of old idea’s in context of the present. This major project will will preserve energy, imagination and mythology alongside facts.


Now is the time for a collective effort to discover, to contribute and to disagree!