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15 June, 2012  ▪  Yevhenia Kozlovska

Kyiv’s Contemporary Sculpture Festival: Monuments to the Everyday

The city has been buzzing with big art shows these days. Following Arsenale 2012, the 1st Kyiv International Biennale for Contemporary Art open through 31 July, the First Contemporary Sculpture Festival runs from 2 June through 2 July

The festival features international and Ukrainian artists, the latter presenting 9 out of 15 pieces from the main collection. They will compete for a grand prize worth EUR 6,000. Five masterpieces by world-renowned sculptors including Jaume Plensa, Nigel Hall, Eva Rothschild, Magdalena Abakanowicz and Sui Jianguo, are also on display. Sui Jianguo presented his landmark Legacy Mantle, a sculpture of Mao Zedong’s hollow, disembodied jacket symbolizing the leader’s ideas that failed to stand the test of time.

Another must-see sculpture is Jaume Plensa’s The House of Knowledge. Eight meters high, the giant statue is composed entirely of huge aluminum letters of the alphabet combined in a form resembling the human body. From inside the sculpture, the world is viewed through a prism of symbols. The Spanish sculptor has had a penchant for text since his early childhood, which he spent reading books. Magdalena Abakanowicz’s Seated Figure shows how helpless an individual is in a crowd.

Oleksiy Sai’s Abandoned Site of Corporate Nomads displays a sense of humor and straightforwardness uncommon in contemporary art. The artist encourages the audience to contemplate the daily routines of office employees from a different perspective. The white-collar workspace looks more like a pre-historic settlement. Wigwams are crammed with computer parts and a totem pole of scanners and printers towers over the middle of the site.

Some sculptures will change over the course of the month. The rusty metal of Wind Rose, for instance, will gradually transform. The Laws of Nature featuring old broken cell phones, tapes, keyboards and computer screens made of clay will be ruined by the elements. However, the sculptors promise to touch them up so that they will last until the end of the festival.  

The CREVIS art group offers an interesting interpretation of nostalgic childhood memories. Their Button sculpture tells the small story of a little thing lost in a birch lane that stayed there and grew with the trees. The soil must have been good, as the Button eventually grew 3 meters. Peering through the buttonhole provides a view of the Mother Motherland statue from one side and the Pechersk Lavra bell tower from another, adding another layer of meaning.

Dr. Helen Febi, the festival’s curator, believes that art helps change the way people treat their environment. Sally Kidall created an installation with a table and chairs with green grass growing on top of them to symbolize the way people treat nature. The key element of the installation was the plastic on top of it as a symbol of greenhouse effect.

The first visitors to the world-famous Yorkshire Sculpture Park did not understand contemporary sculpture well, but much has changed since then. The purpose of art festivals in Ukraine is to shape the aesthetic taste of the local audience.

The festival is located at the Hryshko Botanical Garden at 1 vul. Timiriazievska. The garden entrance fee is UAH 20 for adults and UAH 10 for children over 7.


Take bus 62 or trolleybus 14 to Botanichnyi Sad (Botanical Garden) from Pecherska metro station

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