Venice Biennale: Art Defends Freedom in Ukraine

The Venice Biennale of Art takes place every two years – this year is the 59th edition from April 23 to November 27 under the title “Milk of Dreams”. 213 artists from 58 countries exhibit in Gardini, Arsenal and the city. 79 countries present their country pavilions. The Golden Lion for life achievements goes to artists Katharina Fritsch (Germany) and Cecilia Vicuña (Chile).

With art against war

The biennial introduces “This is Ukraine: Defending Freedom” as part of its side activities. A monumental and militant art project taking place at the Scuola Grande della Misericordia. The event replaces the Next Generation Art Award @ Venice 2022.

An exhibition that brings together not only the past and present of Ukrainian art, but also works by the world’s greatest contemporary artists who speak out against the war. Kyiv PinchukArtCentre and the Victor Pinchuk Foundation under the auspices of the businessman and philanthropist of the same name and with the support of Ukrainian President Zelenskyj present the event. In his video message he said:

“Perhaps there has not been a single year on planet Earth that nations have not fought for their freedom. But for many years most people have not noticed these battles for freedom. This is what tyrants hope for.”

Addressing all politicians, artists, guests and visitors of the Venice Biennale, Zelenskyj recalled the importance of his nation’s art and culture.

300 portraits of mothers who lost a son

The series “Mothers” contains 300 portraits of mothers who have lost a son on the Donetsk and Luhansk fronts since 2014. Björn Geldhof, Artistic Director of the PinchukArt Center:

“We did this exhibition together in a very short time, only four weeks. The aim was to represent Ukraine as well as possible. Not only in the contemporary sense, but also in the historical one, because Putin started the war by claiming that Ukraine does not “There is culture, it is not a country. This exhibition proves that we have a deep-rooted culture, we have a culture that has a history. Also, the international voices advocating the deployment of Ukraine are important.”

Make the fight visible

One of these artists is the French street artist JR (Juste Ridicule) with his giant portrait of little Valeria, whom he set up with the help of the inhabitants of Lviv. The photo appeared on the front page of The Times and the full-size print is now on display in Venice.

“I put this big picture there because I wanted Russian planes to see who they were shooting at every day.”says the photographer and street artist. “So we spread this image 45 meters long in the heart of the city. You can not miss it when you fly over the city, which was actually just bombed. It was a citizens’ initiative to make people aware of who was affected – especially the children. “Little Valeria is alive and well, she is across the border from her mother, but her father and brother are still in Ukraine.”

civilians who became soldiers

Lesia Khomenko’s husband is fighting in Ukraine. The artist paints civilians like lawyers, engineers or musicians who are now soldiers.

“I understand art as a political activity”says Lesia Khomenko. “Art certainly can not continue with this reality, especially now with the death of many people, many civilians. Reality is more powerful than art, especially the Ukrainian reality is so surreal.”

Special permit for art

Nikita Kadan came with a special permit and must return to Ukraine on 2 May. It shows fragments of the war from 2014 until today: “This work shows evidence such as fragments of Russian missiles as well as fragments of debris from Kiev”explains Kadan.

This is Ukraine: Defending Freedom can be seen in Venice until August 7th.

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