Ukrainian paintings at risk of war find safe haven in Switzerland

Ukrainian paintings at risk of war find safe haven in Switzerland

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The crates in which the paintings were transported from Ukraine, weeks after the windows of the Kiev gallery were shattered by the concussion of a nearby shell, are also on display.

Vakulenko said it was impossible to insure the paintings crossing Ukraine, so the shipment was put under guard on a two-day journey to the Polish border.

“The most important thing was the secrecy of the movement of cargo through the territory of Ukraine,” Vakulenko said. “The details of the movement of the cargo were known only to a very limited circle of people directly involved in the process of transportation and security.”

The exhibition in Basel displays 49 works by Ukrainian-born artists, such as Ilya Repin and Volodymyr Borovikovsky, from the 18th to the 20th centuries. Many painters trained in Russia and were associated with its empire or the Soviet Union.

But the exhibition challenges the notion that the work fits into a complete understanding of Russian art.

“It was an important project to understand the narrative of their collection, and to look at (their) history more critically and consciously,” said Olga Osadtchy, assistant curator at the Kunstmuseum Basel, about the Kiev gallery’s initiative.

“We are all accustomed to this label ‘Russian art’, but there is much more beneath it.”

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