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A new biennale in Eastern Europe

A new biennale in Eastern Europe

The “biennale” is an international concept initiated in Venice to promote art and local tourism. About 200 biennales take place annually across the globe. It is possible to travel everywhere following the dates of the international contemporary art biennales: Venice, Sao Paulo, Sidney, Havana, Istanbul, Lyon, Berlin, Shanghai, Singapore, Athens to name a few.

Now, it is Ukraine’s turn to launch its first one. The Inaugural International Biennale of Contemporary Art – “ARSENALE 2012”, named after the art complex in which it will be shown – will open in Kiev on 24 May 2012 at the National Cultural Art and Museum Complex, Mystetskyi Arsenal. This is the Old Arsenal building, which was constructed in the late 18th century for the Kiev garrison.

“Mystetskyi Arsenal”, Exterior View, Photo: Maksim Belousov

To launch this great project, the Ukrainian authorities have selected British curator David Elliot as the Artistic Director. Elliot organised last year’s Sydney Biennale.

The title chosen for this inaugural year is “The Best of Times, The Worst of Times, Rebirth and Apocalypse in Contemporary Art”. Its central theme is the cyclical nature of contemporary art, exploring how it relates to our lives today and to our continually changing perspectives of the past and future.

In terms of the range of artists, the biennale will bring together contemporary art from all over the world, including Ukraine and the CIS States. It is a great opportunity to explore the Ukrainian vibrant contemporary art market and, in particular, the new generation of contemporary artists previously exhibited at the Venice Biennale and Art Basel.

Ilya Chichkan is a good example of the artists who began producing important works in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Born into a family of artists in Kiev in 1967, he learned to paint with his grandfather, Leonid Chichkan, an art professor and classicist of Socialist Realism, and with his father Arkady Chichkan. A painter and an author of installations, photo and video projects, Ilya Chichkan also founded the “New Wave” Ukrainian Artist Movement that developed in Kiev in the beginning of the 1990s.

“Illya Chichkan and PSYFOX”, Saatchi (2011), Photo: Maksim Belousov
“Part of the ‘Back entrance to the Museum’ project by Illya Chichkan and PSYFOX” (2011), Photo: Maksim Belousov

Nowadays, great attention is also given to the new generation of Ukrainian artists that emerged during the Orange Revolution and who are interested in political activism and “critical” art. One emerging young artist who falls into that group is Nikita Kadan, the winner of the PinchukArtCentre Prize 2011, a private initiative which each year selects 20 nominees under 35.

Born in Kiev in 1982, Kadan graduated from the National Academy of Art and Architecture. He is a member of the artistic group R.E.P. (Revolutionary Experimental Space) and of the curatorial association Hudrada. He is a painter, graphic artist and an author of installations.

“Pedestal. The practice of repression”, Nikita Kadan (2011)

The Arsenale will run from 24  May to 31 July 2012 at the Mystetskyi Arsenal, 10 Lavrska Street, Kiev, Ukraine, 01010.