Two trucks loaded with 51 works from the beginning of the 20th century National Art Museum of Ukraine departed from kyiv on the morning of the 15th, shortly before the city was attacked by the largest missile bombardment to date. they put Heading to spain, where the works will be exhibited in the exhibition ‘In the eye of the hurricane. Vanguard in Ukraine, 1900-1930’, which can be visited from November 29 to April 30, 2023, at the Thyssen Museum.
“Virtually no one knew anything about the trip. Only some workers from the transport company, the two drivers, those responsible for the Government who had to issue the permits and little else. It was too dangerous for the secret to leak. You have to keep in mind that that day there were power cuts throughout the city and that, in addition, the museum building is very close to some ministries and the Government building, so the danger was much greater in the midst of the bombs . That day we were very nervous… more than you can imagine,” he told ABC. Konstantin Akinshaone of those responsible for transportation and curator of the exhibition together with Katia Denysova and Olena Kashuba-Volvach.
The paintings were packed at the National Art Museum of Ukraine on Monday the 14th and loaded onto trucks the next morning. Russia fired almost a hundred cruise missiles against Ukraine that same day. Recently arrived in Madrid for the opening of the exhibition, Akinsha assures that it was “very complicated” to get all the works safely, especially since there were practically no companies willing to insure them. The only one with whom they could reach an agreement was Kunsttrans Kyiv, which dedicated four employees for packaging. “At the last moment we had a hard time deciding whether it was more dangerous to stay in kyiv or leave, among other things, for the safety of the drivers as it fell on the capital. a rain of bombs», adds the commissioner to this newspaper.
In this sense, the director of the transport company, Svitlana Melnyk, revealed to ‘The New York Times’: «The drivers told us that they saw Russian missiles above their heads». In Akinsha’s opinion, “the trucks were much safer when they were driving on the highway towards the border than when they were driving through the streets of the city in the first moments, for the simple reason that that morning the Russians were not shelling the streets.” freeways. Their main target was some energy infrastructure inside kyiv and some other important buildings. While the works were underway, a small team of people were in permanent contact with the drivers, to make sure that everything went without any serious incident.
On Wednesday the 16th at night the trucks were held for 10 hours at the border with Poland, after a stray missile killed two Polish citizens in Przewodów. “Although it may not seem like it, that was one of the most dangerous moments and in which we lived the most uncertainty, because we did not know if new explosions could occur when all that heritage was about to leave the country.” Finally, they succeeded, arriving in Spain five days later, on Sunday the 20th, after traveling more than 3,000 kilometers.
With this exhibition, the Thyssen Museum “wants to celebrate the dynamism and diversity of the Ukrainian art scene, while safeguarding the country’s heritage during the current intolerable occupation of its territory by Russia.” After its presentation in Madrid, the exhibition will travel to Ludwig Museum in Cologne. It constitutes the most complete study carried out to date of avant-garde Ukrainian art, showing the different artistic trends, from figurative art to futurism or constructivism. It is on loan from the National Art Museum of Ukraine and the Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine, as well as from private collections. are exhibited 70 works by 26 artists (paintings, drawings, collages, and theater designs) by leading masters of the Ukrainian avant-garde, including Oleksandr Bohomazov, Vasyl Yermilov, Viktor Palmov, and Anatol Petrytskyi. In addition, internationally renowned figures who were born and began their careers in Ukraine, such as Alexandra Exter, Wladimir Baranoff-Rossiné and Sonia Delaunay, will be present.
The exhibition –whose technical curator in Madrid is Marta Ruiz del Árbolcurator of modern painting at the Thyssen Museum– has settled in the rooms 48 to 52 of the permanent collection on the first floor of the museum. It has been possible thanks to the support of the President of Ukraine, Volodimir Zelensky (he is expected to say a few words via video during the inauguration next Monday); the Ukrainian Minister of Culture, Oleksandr Tkachenko; the Ministry of Culture of Spain; Museums for Ukraine and Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza, daughter of the baron and patron of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation, who has promoted the project since its inception and has facilitated the complex negotiations to bring these works to Spain.
In statements published by ‘The Guardian’, the latter stressed that “it is the largest and most important export of Ukraine’s cultural heritage since the beginning of the war. Taking these works to a safe place was not exempt from risks. The Russian Army has shown a constant lack of respect for the pacts of the Hague Convention«. Russia’s war in the Ukraine, he continues, “is not just about stealing territory, it is also about control the nation’s cultural heritage”. The show is completed by a symposium that will bring together prominent European cultural figures, who will address cultural solidarity in times of crisis.
Akinsha, for his part, adds to ABC: «This exhibition has, of course, an added value to that of the works that we have released, because Ukrainian culture is also in danger, it is one of the victims of the war. More than 500 buildings, monuments and museums have been damaged. That is why the exhibition is so important, because it also works as a powerful reminder of how close we are, too, to a new culture disaster».