It’s remarkable that this center still exists

zhanna kadyrova
On May 12, the pre-auction exhibition of PROSTO.ART will open at the National Art Museum of Ukraine, the country’s main art institution. This is the first auction in Ukraine from which all of the proceeds will be used to support independent, non-commercial contemporary art. The Foundation Center for Contemporary Art, the only non-commercial Ukrainian art institution with 15 years of experience, organized the auction and will manage the funds. A special board of experts that included art historians, critics, curators and museum professionals selected 80 art works from among those donated by 67 leading Ukrainian artists, representing three generations of Ukrainian contemporary art.

KORYDOR presents a series of interviews taken by artist AlevtinaKakhidze with PROSTO.ART participating artists: Zhanna Kadyrova, Vasyl Tsagolov, Vlada Ralko and Tiberiy Silvashi.

“Do we need contemporary art centers? Not museums or galleries, but contemporary art centers?” Before I could ask this question of Zhanna Kadyrova, Vasyl Tsagolov, Vlada Ralko and Tiberiy Silvashi, I had to answer it myself.

And my answer is as follows: art in the 21st century can’t develop without contemporary art centers. In my opinion, by their very mission, contemporary art centers are primarily interested in the creation of art. Art is preserved in museums, art is presented in galleries in a particular way, and in contemporary art centers art is located in the center. Art in contemporary art centers can be experimental, useless, poor, new…Contemporary art centers are the most humane institutions in relation to artists and the most unbiased of art itself.

Alevtina Kakhidze:
Are contemporary art centers (not museums or galleries – but specifically contemporary art centers) necessary? Centers that would take on certain functions, especially educating not just viewers, but also artists; and that would offer expertise in the midst of countless questions about contemporary art?

Zhanna Kadyrova: How did we all appear in today’s art world? The CCA set us up.
As history would have it, during the Orange Revolution in 2004, we came to the CCA to ask for a ladder to hang up posters outside.

After getting to know us, Yuri Onuch, who was the director then, offered us the Center’s space as an open studio. You can’t compare institutional support to that of any gallery, since commercial galleries always have their own profits in mind. We got the opportunity to try to do something all together. Simply try. Within three weeks, there were nearly 50 artists using our studio. After a while, the R.E.P. group, made up of its 20 founding members, was offered a year-long residency.

According to our contract, we had several exhibitions and one open studio in the summer. I can’t imagine any other situation that could have united such different artists. And here’s what’s interesting: as soon as the residency in the CCA ended, R.E.P. instantly became a group of six people, as it remains to this day. Everyone else scattered… But even after the end of our residency, our ties to the Center remained. I used the space and technical equipment past the term of our contract. I always knew that I could borrow something from the CCA for a project. And this matters a lot for young artists in particular. Centers are definitely necessary. For us, that push came from the CCA. Everything would have been different without the Center, that’s how it is.

A.K.: I also would not have “emerged” if not for the CCA. Or everything would have been different. If you look at my CV from 2002, my presence in Ukraine as an artist consists solely of exhibitions there, at the CCA! My first project was realized in the CCA, and what can I say, so were my first lessons: working with space, how it interacts with the audience – I went through all that there. I was renting an apartment then, so I would have my mail delivered to the CCA. For many, the CCA was something greater. My first appearance on the Kyiv gallery scene was initiated when R.E.P., in the role of curator, invited me to take part in the exhibitions “New Ukrainian Language” and “Transit” at the Karas Gallery in 2008. These were exhibitions of collective expression about a specific theme. It’s that energy that we’re talking about, trying to work together. But today, times have changed, and the CCA can no longer admit a group of 50 people for a year-long open studio. What do you think about today’s Center, that even has a different name – Foundation Center for Contemporary Art?

Z.K.: All the same, the fact that now the FCCA organizes discussions, maintains a library and video archive – this all serves an educational purpose, and not only for artists, but for the general audience. What’s important is that it’s a noncommercial institution, and it sets the bar for commercial galleries, as it was before with the CCA. It’s a pity that right now there’s no possibility to mount full-scale exhibitions. For Pinchuk Art Centre has its own concept: a private center is a private center. The former CCA was great: there were high quality exhibitions that didn’t aim to entertain the public with expensive attractions…

A.K.: How would you explain the fact that today the FCCA is asking for financial support?

Z.K.: It’s necessary to try to change this somehow. I think there are people in Ukraine who have the means to support this institution and realize its importance. It’s remarkable that this center still exists – it’s unique. Soros Centers all over Europe disappeared as soon as investment stopped.

A.K.: In some places they were nationalized. For example, the Soros Center in Warsaw became the national institution Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, and now has a staff of 100.

Z.K.: And here the Center continues to exist on sheer enthusiasm, and it does so much good. It’s remarkable and deserves some support.

A.K.: From our national government?

Z.K.: I’d like to hope so. All the more reason, because I’m just starting to work independently in Ukraine, without the Moscow-based Regina Gallery. And why am I not content with exclusive cooperation with one commercial gallery? The gallery is totally not interested in minor exhibitions, and I’m interested in experimenting, I can’t picture my development otherwise, so we are no longer working together as before.

A.K.: Is this categorical attitude specific to this particular gallery, or is this typical when working with any gallery?

Z.K.: This is an old gallery with its own principles, I don’t know how it is with others. Perhaps others have a different understanding of exclusivity. The situation in Ukraine is changing rapidly; the market has started to grow; a number of galleries have appeared; and I don’t have to worry about how I’m going to afford supplies…

A.K.: I heard that earlier galleries were different, that they took on some of the functions of contemporary art centers.

Z.K.: And how many galleries were there?! It’s important that centers set the standards… For the gallery’s job is to show, sell, cover all its expenses. And a center can show the freshest work that nobody would buy, but in time will impact those same galleries. And, whichever way you look at it, they still cater to their clients’ tastes, while in centers experts convey their own taste and experience to the public, to artists, to everyone.