“In the Eye of the Storm: Modernism in Ukraine, 1900 – 1930’s”, the ground-breaking exhibition of Ukrainian painting of the first three decades of 20th century art at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid, has been voted onto the shortlist of Apollo magazine’s, ‘Exhibition of the Year’, alongside such exhibitions as Vermeer at the Rijksmuseum, de Stael at the Museum of Modern Art, Paris, and the Tudors at the Metropolitan Museum, New York.
With a majority of work loaned from the National Art Museum of Ukraine and the State Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema, both in Kyiv, the works were secretly packed into trucks and transported to Madrid on 15 November, one of the worst days of bombing in the Ukrainian capital since the beginning of the war.
This was the largest-ever legal transfer of art from a war-torn country.
Incorporating artistic movements from Futurism to Constructivism, the show charts the development of the Ukrainian Modernist period amid various political shifts, including the First World War and the creation of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. Many of the artists on show were killed during Stalinist repressions, while their histories were obscured internationally for decades using the overarching label of ‘Russian’.
Despite these tragic circumstances, Ukrainian art of the period lived through a true renaissance of creative experimentation. In the Eye of the Storm reclaims this essential chapter of European modernism, displaying 70 works by masters of Ukrainian modernism, Oleksandr Bohomazov, Vasyl Yermilov, Viktor Palmov, together with that of internationally renowned artists who were born and started their careers in Ukraine but became famous abroad, Kazymyr Malevich, Alexandra Exter, Wladimir Baranoff-Rossiné, and Sonia Delaunay.
The exhibition, curated by Konstantin Akinsha, Katia Denisova and Elena Kashuba, is the most comprehensive survey of Ukrainian modern art to date, whose opening was accompanied by an impassioned speech from Volodymyr Zelensky about safeguarding the country’s cultural heritage during Russian occupation.
After Madrid, the exhibition travelled to the Ludwig Museum, Cologne and is currently on show in Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium.
The show opens in London, at the Royal Academy of Arts on 29 June 2024.