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Produce good art and forget for a while to think you are Ukranian

6 November 2009

Leading international curators and artists, members of the PinchukArtCentre Prize jury, Francesco Bonami, Jessica Morgan, Boris Mykhailov and Serhiy Bratkov talk to the TOP 10 about the criteria they will base on while selecting the Prize winners and their search for a new avant-garde.

The fact that such respectable international curators as the Italian Francesco Bonami, German Udo Kittelmann and British Jessica Morgan, acting as the jurors selecting the PinchukArtCentre Prize winners, is unprecedented for the Ukrainian art. This event can only be compared perhaps only with the 1990s visit to Ukraine of Achille Bonito Oliva, the lawmaker of the Italian transavantgarde, theorist and curator who inspired the works of art produced by the previous generation of the national contemporary artists. Except that Oliva paid his visit to the already established generation of artists, and this event didn’t have much effect on the formation of the artistic world of the transavantgarde era. But the expectation laid on the worldwide celebrities, who are to announce the Prize winners on 4 December, is much higher, i.e. specific practical assistance in integrating young Ukrainian art into the global cultural process. After all, a word spoken by the legendary Francesco Bonami on the international art stage is treated as a law almost. And the contemporary arts curator Jessica Morgan form the highly esteemed Tate Modern gallery is not the last person in the art industry either, same goes for the director of the Berlin National Gallery Udo Kittelmann. It’s not, however, absolutely clear why as many as two internationally recognized photographers from Kharkiv Serhiy Bratkov and Boris Mikhailov are among the panelists, given that the shortlisted projects hardly include any photography and these two artists seem to duplicate similar aesthetic position. Whatever the case, the Prize is private, the jurors are announced and it is these respectable artists, curators and functionaries that are to establish among the young Ukrainian artists those worthy of the top award from Victor Pinchuk. To understand the criteria for short -listing the potential candidates, we asked the competent jurors to answer a few simple questions.

1. What qualities do you think are necessary for a young contemporary artist today? On what criteria are you going to base while judging the works of the artists nominated for the PinchukArtCentre Prize?

Francesco Bonami: The qualities for every artist in any time - today, yesterday, tomorrow - must be the urgency to say something to the worlds and to be able to translate an idea into an experience for the viewer. So that will be my criteria - a simple question: "does this artist is telling me something about the world I live in ? Does he or she open a window somewhere I didn't know?

Jessica Morgan: I think the same qualities are required today as have always been the case: dedication, sincerity, seriousness....and ideally an informed position on the history of art. It is very easy to ascertain if an artist is not totally committed to what they are trying to achieve and has no sense of their place in a history of art, one hopes to find artists who are trying to stretch beyond the accepted boundaries of art if not simply excelling in their métier.

Boris Mikhailov: This is a complicated question for me, as all of my criteria have crumbled recently. In the past you were supposed to create an object, it was more important. But now the object doesn’t draw interest. Therefore, my criteria have changed slightly and the majority of the works of art I see now seem to be a touch too straightforward, moreover, not always I am able to distinguish the element this art is based on. I reflect a lot about it these days.

Serhiy Bratkov: For me, there are three important aspects: the artwork itself, the artist’s personality and an avant-garde component, the uniqueness of the project.

2. Contemporary Ukrainian art is rather poorly represented on the international arena. What steps should be done for it to declare itself as a phenomenon on the international level?

Francesco Bonami: Produce good art and forget for a while to think you are Ukrainian. The identity is stronger when is not shouted but imagined.

Jessica Morgan: Find the best artists (with the help of experts in the field) and then support them on the international arena in a serious rather than sensational manner.

Boris Mikhailov: In my opinion, none of the measures will be effective. It seems to me that new figures will emerge, the ones able to make a breach, and it will work. Dictated measures will simply fail to succeed. There are lots of curators today, they all come over here, communicate with artists and see what these artists are producing. And at the end of the day, if something powerful enough occurs here, something that must be presented on the international level, then it will be seen and heard of. As to the question how to deliberately or artificially raise the Ukrainian art, I struggle to answer this.

Serhiy Bratkov: Well, there must be a talent, most certainly. We must work and we’ll be noticed. And secondly, there must be a public component. After all, there must be a specific state support and, among other, there must be established national museums for contemporary art. 3. Today a lot of specialists proclaim that contemporary art experiences great necessity in a kind of "new avant-garde" – a concept that would revitalize and redirect it. Where do you think we should search for the beginnings of this avant-garde and what the art of the future will be like?

Francesco Bonami: I am not a clairvoyant, I never was. The avant-garde appears when we don't expect it, if we ask for it will never arrive. That's the beauty of art - the way it changes our perspective of world in way we did not expect. The art of the future will be like the art of the past and the art of the present. Art is like literature: only that art than can tell a story even with one brush stroke or one object will be the art of the future. The story maybe is always the same but it is the way people tell it as it was new that will make them the artist of the future.

Jessica Morgan: I look for it constantly but have yet to see it! I look forward to finding it (and hope that I recognize it as such when I do).

Boris Mikhailov: If only I knew … I would be there and have done something in this fashion. But nobody knows what the art of the future is to be like. Generally, I think it is time to look for this tendency. For now, in my environment, I see it as a search for new ways. But the ‘finding’ does not have a clear shape yet. Or I just can’t see this avant-garde. Art always has prospects. There are different versions of the future art; there is new pop-art and new classicism. But these are the major tendencies and in real terms it’s hard to say what will be left of them in the art of the future. We think and work following our own directions. I view things through photography, not painting or some kind of global art, as I am more interested in photography related phenomena. And I don’t see any distinct point of reference in this area, but I simply might know not all about it.

Serhiy Bratkov: The tendencies are still the same, they go on from 1990s. First of all, it’s street art, a democratic free art. The second potentially promising field, I suppose, is luxury art.

Author: Алиса Ложкина
Source: ТОП 10