Art and cultural preservation, notwithstanding the war: the Kuindzhi Art Museum in Mariupol
As of March 1, 2023, UNESCO has verified damage to 246 Ukrainian cultural sites since February 24, 2022: 107 religious sites, 20 museums, 88 historical buildings, 19 monuments, 12 libraries. But, new digitization methods and collaborative artistic practice can be successful forms of resisting cultural erasure.
One year ago (March 21, 2022), a Russian airstrike destroyed the Kuindzhi Art Museum, in Mariupol. The House Museum of Philadelphia (USA) has worked with Ukrainian designer Dmytro Kifuliak, to build a commemorative artwork as a memorial to the city’s architecture and the lives that have been lost in the war.
The Kuindzhi Art Museum was a cultural institution, that displayed the life and work of artist Arkhip Kuindzhi (1841 – July 24, 1910), among others including Ivan Aivazovsky, Mykola Glushchenko, Vasyl Korenchuk, and Oleksandr Bondarenko. The museum opened on October 30, 2010, nearly a century after the death of the great landscape painter. The historic mansion turned museum was built in 1902, in the northern Art Nouveau style. Over the course of its history, the building held many functions including a library, historical archive, and local history museum. The mansion was restored in 1997, before eventually becoming the home to over 600 paintings, 950 graphic works, 150 sculptures, and 300 decorative art objects. Tatyana Buli, the former director of the Kuindzhi Art Museum, recalls: “Even now, I seem to see these paintings before my eyes, but they are gone. They are lost irretrievably; they are lost forever. It is a terrible loss. It is a whole cultural stratum that perished in the fire of war.”
Ukrainian designer Dmytro Kifuliak collaborated with Evan Curtis Charles Hall, director of House Museum in Philadelphia, to digitally reconstruct the Kuindzhi Art Museum in Mariupol. The work was released on March 21, 2023, the one year anniversary of the Russian airstrike that destroyed the Museum during the Siege of Mariupol (February 24 – May 20, 2022).
Dmytro Kifuliak and Evan Curtis Charles Hall imagine a new landscape for the Kuindzhi Art Museum. Titled There Will Be No More Night, a direct quote from the Book of Revelation, the work anticipates a digital future for at-risk cultural assets; one where they are safe from physical cycles of violence and where the light of the screen is ever present.
The digital reconstruction of the building began by collecting tourist photographs of the former Kuindzhi Art Museum, which were then sketched and extruded within a virtual space. Spearheaded by Kifuliak, the facade underwent a meticulous fracturing process to simulate the fragile, yet unified, state of the building. Kuindzhi’s surreal use of light is echoed, as the facade’s transparent fissures, the water of the Dnipro river, and the distant horizon exhibit a luminous glow. The work locates a new place for the destroyed museum, beyond the reaches of war. It’s as if the physical structure has finally passed into the afterlife to be with Kuindzhi himself.
About House Museum
House Museum is a Philadelphia-based nonprofit institution, whose mission is to preserve historically significant landmarks through the integration of site-specific art installations. House Museum reimagines the function of vacant and abandoned properties, in order to transform them into culturally rich and productive spaces. Each installation becomes an access point that connects the public to a constellation of city-wide exhibits.
About Dmytro Kifuliak
Dmytro Kifuliak (born in Lviv, 1999) is a multidisciplinary designer based in Lviv, Ukraine. His work relates to technology, art, and modern culture. His design philosophy focuses on creating stories and communication systems that work within both commerce and culture. He received a bachelor degree from the Ukrainian Academy of Printing and Graphic Design.
About Evan Curtis Charles Hall
Evan Curtis Charles Hall (born in Los Angeles, CA, 1995) is an artist, museum director, and educator. His practice explores the ways that historical materials surge into the present, whether through photographic processes, archaeological excavations, or prophetic utterances.