How two Ukrainian art dealers rescued valuable paintings

It was a rescue operation that reads just like the plot of a warfare thriller: an artwork vendor and a gallery proprietor from Ukraine risking their lives to avoid wasting artworks from the embattled metropolis of Kyiv. They did not do that on behalf of the federal government or every other group, however on their very own initiative as artwork lovers. Katharina Vozianova and Oleksandr Shchelushchenko instructed DW how they managed to convey the artworks to Germany.

‘It was very scary’

Ukrainian artwork vendor Katharina Vozianova spontaneously fled her house in Kyiv in February, with out a plan for her artworks. “When the warfare began, I jumped in my automobile with three different individuals and drove off. I solely had a small suitcase and a small portray by Ievgen Petrov with me,” she says.

Earlier than the warfare, she labored with numerous galleries in Kyiv and London and dealt in up to date and avant-garde artwork. She by no means anticipated her life to alter so rapidly.

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She had truly already deliberate her subsequent main exhibition that includes works by Ukrainian painter Ievgen Petrov with the gallery proprietor Oleksandr Shchelushchenko. Dozens of his artworks had been already saved in Shchelushchenko’s TSEKH gallery in Kyiv.

The warfare modified every part

After a brief keep in Munich, Vozianova returned to her hometown. She didn’t need to lose her artwork to the warfare.

Shchelushchenko remembers Katharina’s return. “She advised that we take our artworks to Germany, the place she is properly related. She would transport the artwork as a courier and arrange every part that goes with it.”

And so, the 2 launched into their daring rescue mission. Whereas the Russian military was attacking Kyiv, Shchelushchenko drove to his gallery and took the work out of their frames. “Once I got here to Kyiv on March 7, the ambiance was very aggressive. Kyiv was being bombed; there have been bombings throughout the gallery,” he says. He was supported by armed helpers. “We got here with weapons and particular protecting clothes.”

‘Act quick or die’

Shchelushchenko discovered to understand utterly new issues throughout the rescue operation. “It was very fascinating for me to see that every part has to occur in a short time in warfare. You do not have time for, ‘Oh, I like that. Oh, however I do not like that.’ You do not have time for sensitivities. Both you act quick otherwise you die.”

Missing the right packaging materials, the gallery proprietor and his helpers rolled up the artworks of up to date artists Ievgen Petrov and Mykola Bilous and packed them into sewage pipes, which stored the artworks protected. “There have been three large tubes, nearly as tall as me,” says Vozianova.

In the meantime, Vozianova toured Kyiv to avoid wasting extra artworks from her personal residence and picked up valuables that her associates had left behind once they fled.

Then she picked up the packed sewage pipes from Shchelushchenko’s gallery, loaded them into her automobile and drove to Chernivtsi. The western Ukrainian metropolis is about 45 minutes by automobile from Romania.

Suspicious tubes

Though she had managed to flee the warfare, as soon as she had reached the Ukrainian-Romanian border Vozianova nonetheless needed to face bureaucratic challenges. “You’ll be able to’t simply drive throughout the border like that. I needed to current paperwork that proved that the work weren’t nationwide cultural belongings, that they’re truly works of up to date artwork.”

She confronted issues on the airport, too, because the safety workers didn’t initially let her undergo check-in. “They noticed me, a bit lady with these huge tubes in her arms, they usually stated, ‘What the hell is in there?’ After which they X-rayed them to see if there weren’t any weapons in it.”

Round 40 work in Munich

The artworks survived the journey from Kyiv to Munich. What’s going to occur to them now continues to be unsure. Katharina Vozianova and Oleksandr Shchelushchenko wish to exhibit them and promote them to collectors. “We have already got invites to the Berlin Artwork Week and Artwork Vienna,” says Shchelushchenko confidently.

However first, the work might be exhibited on the ARTMUC artwork gallery in Munich from Might 13-15. After that, they are going to be proven in a pop-up gallery. “The plan is to indicate them along with different artworks from Ukraine. We need to assist the artists who’re caught in Ukraine,” says Vozianova.

The artwork market within the nation has been utterly disrupted. Lots of the artists she represents grew to become depressed, began consuming and stopped portray. The warfare weighs closely on them, says Shchelushchenko, who left Kyiv as a result of he now not feels protected there. He now lives exterior of the town and takes care of his mom.

“We’re in fixed contact with the artists,” provides Vozianova. “Mykola Bilous is a very sturdy man. He instructed me, ‘I’ll defend my home and my studio, I’ll undoubtedly not go away’.” Ievgen Petrov doesn’t need to go away Ukraine both. “None of them need that.” However as quickly as they modify their minds, says the artwork vendor, “we’ll get them out of there immediately.”

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