Kyiv. National Art Museum of Ukraine

Aeneid Project

24.08.2017 – 29.10.2017

The canon of Ukrainian literature has already been wholly formed with the dominating textuality as one of its specific features. However, “the classics" may exist not only in verbal forms – it is often incarnated in visual images incepted at unconscious and half-forgotten levels.

Exhibition Kyiv National Art Museum of Ukraine

Curators: Pavlo Gudimov, Diana Klochko, Polina Limina, Danylo Nikitin

Organisators: National Art Museum of Ukraine, Art Center Ya Gallery

The canon of Ukrainian literature has already been wholly formed with the dominating textuality as one of its specific features. However, “the classics" may exist not only in verbal forms – it is often incarnated in visual images incepted at unconscious and half-forgotten levels. The nature of visuality raises quite a few issues addressed by Aeneid Project, a large-scale exhibition to be held in the National Art Museum of Ukraine from August 24 to October 8, 2017.

The source text for Aeneid Project is Ivan Kotliarevskyi's poem that gained the status of “the first monument of Ukrainian literature". Such an association is a great impulse for further interpretation of the text by the artists who would like to identify themselves with the Ukrainian idea. This notion, naturally, has always been ambiguous as each epoch put different, sometimes opposite, meanings in it. Thus, the first interesting manifestation of the Aeneid is that it serves as “a litmus paper" that helps to open the ideological codes inherent to one time or another.

The other side of working with the Aeneid may be characterized as developing sort of a textbook on the history of Ukrainian art. Almost every art epoch starting with the end of the ХІХ century was represented in visual images: the poem goes from realism to avant-garde and expressionism, is reflected in social realism and folk art, finally becoming similar to comics and, at the same time, embodied through media art – an animated cartoon. The Aeneid seems to endure any transformation harmoniously assuming the form of both a stage performance and the interior design of a literary café.

What really amazes and, at the same time, inspires is that under such circumstances the history of life, after the time Kotliarevskyi finished his poem, has never been studied (it has been 175 years if counting since the publication of the complete edition in 1842). The field of research remains open. Aeneid Project is the exhibition intended to start reviewing the main visual layer created before 2000s. Moreover, Aeneid Project is the platform that demonstrates the possibility of working with a large number of themes through only one work of art, even though it is of landmark nature. The issues arising when viewing the various images to Kotliarevskyi's poem may be often seen as the issues of identity that in some ways overlap in different epochs, styles and names. The memory is archived; the visual images grow intense and “come to life" in the exhibition environment.

Aeneid Project's exhibitionability is not limited to showing paintings and illustrations to the burlesque poem: the visuality is, for instance, manifested through the multimedia means or “reincarnation" as a part of the Aeneas Café that has long been a popular gathering place for Kyiv intelligentsia; through finding the dialogue between Aeneid-related works and widely known pieces of art. All told, the intermuseum project will display over 200 exhibits from a good few of collections, including both the recognized masterpieces of Heorhii Narbut or Anatolii Bazylevych and never-before-exhibited in Kyiv works from the museum funds of other cities – for example, the illustrations by Myron Levytskyi and Mykhailo Derehus. It will be easier to “feel" the theme thanks to the intensive program consisting of curatorial tours, nocturnes, children's activities, meetings and round tables with the connoisseurs and authors of the Aeneid images and contemporaries of 1960s – the time when the poem was as many times incarnated in the works of visual art as it was nearly ever before or later.

Polina Limina