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Henry M. Robert

Triptych: an unsentimental journey to the past and the future

Kyiv’s first private gallery marks its 25th anniversary
7 November, 2013 - 10:54
EVERYONE WANTED TO HAVE ONE’S PICTURE TAKEN NEXT TO KATIA KASIANENKO’S ARTWORK, CREATED AS A GIFT FOR THE TRIPTYCH
YURII KOMELKOV (RIGHT) AND YURII VAKULENKO, DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL RUSSIAN ART MUSEUM IN KYIV WHO HAS RECENTLY BECOME A MEMBER OF THE CULT AURA’S PUBLIC COUNCIL

It was an extravaganza of a feast, and heroes of the occasion had farsightedly staged it outside a cozy Andriivsky Uzviz gallery which Kyiv artists and Triptych visitors like so much. This time it was the Chocolate House Art Center that received guests. But there were so many people who wished to greet the celebrants in the center’s spacey halls that it was difficult to make your way through to the exhibited works. Which is only natural because hundreds of people have befriended Triptych in the past 25 years: someone was discovered as artist in the gallery, someone has developed a taste for collecting artworks, following the sage advice of the gallery’s associates, and many cannot fancy walking down Andriivsky Uzviz without dropping in to Triptych to have a cup of coffee, leaf through the fresh catalogues, and hear the latest news about plein-air and international exhibitions.

Here is the whole story. Is it not customary to recall at a birthday party all those who have something to do with this event? Speaking figuratively, I will begin with parents.

1988… Whoever was then at a conscious age can remember well what kind of time it was. There was a sweet smell of freedom as well as “perestroika and glasnost!” and, at the same time, a painstaking search for one’s own self and attempts to adapt to an unknown but so inviting reality. The five talented artists Oleksandr Milovzorov, Volodymyr Isupov, Natalia Pikush, Nelly Isupova, and Nina Lapchik were no exception, but they were perhaps just more reckless than their colleagues. They endorsed an almost fantastic idea of their leader Milovzorov, and Kyiv saw the first private gallery Triptych. At first, very few believed in the viability of this venture, but, 10 (!) years later, the Renaissance Foundation supported one of the projects and things began to improve.

A year later there emerged a new director – Tetiana Savchenko who is now well known to Kyiv artists and gallery-keepers, a person full of initiative and undisputable flair for non-conventional personalities. She once said in an interview that Triptych was, without an exaggeration, her life’s work. Indeed, Tetiana managed to gradually transform a specific gallery of decorative and applied art into one that exhibits contemporary painting, sculptures, graphics, and photographs – without too much effort to boot. Yet it took her ten something years to do so. Besides, Triptych has started some attractive traditions and become immensely popular in Kyiv’s intellectual milieu.

I could not help recalling all these remarkable people on the day of the gallery’s 25th anniversary because, were it not for them, such a stylish, ironic, and well-mannered character as Triptych (it is a living being, believe me!) on Andriivsky Uzviz would not simply exist. Each of them has their own way today, but Yurii Komelkov, the current owner of the cult gallery, a businessman and publisher, and his young daring team is trying to uphold the long-established traditions. The first thing he did when he came to Triptych 10 years ago was to change the gallery’s interior – he “dressed it in modern attire.” He published a unique monograph, Ukraine’s 20th-Century Decorative Art: 200 Names. The same title was given to an art exhibition in Ukraine House. A UNESCO delegation visited it and suggested showing the project at its Paris headquarters.

Komelkov remembers sending 600 artworks to the capital of France in 2004. And this exhibit was pronounced the best art project in the past 30 years! When US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was presented by Yevhen Marchuk (Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine at the time) with a catalogue of 200 names, she admitted that this book was the first project in all the years of Ukraine’s independence that projected a positive image of this country.

This was followed by a series of the superb catalogues of Ukrainian artists Ivan Marchuk, Anatolii Kryvolap, Volodymyr Budnikov, Oleksii Malykh, Ihor Yeliseiev, Oleksandr Babak, and Leonid Bernat. What was also a successful experiment is Kostiantyn Donin’s photo album Shooting a Film: Kira Muratova – a documentary observation of how the much-talked-of movie Two in One was being made. All has undoubtedly boosted the gallery’s prestige in the professional milieu and prodded ambitious artists to take part in Triptych’s vernissages and other projects (for example, fruitful plein-air sessions).

Komelkov also came up with a unique surprise for artists on the eve of the gallery’s 25th anniversary celebrations. He announced that Ukrainian art personalities – participants in the Cult Aura foundation – had decided to set up an electronic library of contemporary art and institute a high-profile art prize.

Cult Aura’s public board includes Yurii Komelkov, the foundation’s initiator and owner of the Triptych gallery; rock musicians Oleh Skrypka and Oleksandra Koltsova; theater producer Vlad Troitsky; Yurii Vakulenko, director of the Kyiv National Museum of Russian Art; art curator Olesia Avramenko; artist Anatolii Kryvolap; publisher Nadia Shalamova; Oleksandr Zlotnyk, Rector of the Kyiv Reinhold Gliere Institute of Music; doctor of medicine and public figure Olha Bohomolets; Anton Nikitin, chief editor of the Inter TV channel; Natalia Zhevaho, Cultural Project founder and manager; film producer Oleh Kokhan; and Svitlana Zorina, chief of the Main Directorate of Culture at the Kyiv City Administration.

High on the foundation’s agenda is establishment of a contemporary art e-library, institution of a high-profile art prize, launching of an online platform on culture and lifestyle, designing and implementation of major culture development projects.

The vernissage to mark Triptych’s 25th anniversary displayed the works of 25 most popular Ukrainian painters, graphic artists, and sculptors, including Anatolii Kryvolap, Matvii Vaisberg, Ivan Marchuk, Mykola Bilyk, Halyna Neledva, Vladyslav Shereshevsky, Mykola Muravsky, Oleksii Vladimirov, Oleksandr Zhyvotkov, Leonid Bernat, Boris Egiazarian, and many others from among Ukraine’s top 100 artists.

Some lucky people also managed to obtain the brilliant graphic artist Mykola Muravsky’s drawings which the author signed in their presence, while his good-looking assistant was affixing a genuine seal, “Triptych Gallery Is 25,” to mark the momentous event. I was one of them. So Den’s art collection has acquired a work by the well-known Crimean artist.

To sum it up, the fest was a success. And, as newspapers would have written 25 years ago, when Triptych was founded, “A stark reality begins…” Kyiv’s first private gallery turned this “stark reality” into pleasure for itself and for us long ago.

By Iryna HORDIICHUK, special to The Day. Photos by Ruslan KANIUKA, The Day
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