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Gilded truth

“Fetish,” the personal exhibit by Kyiv-based artist Andrii Tsoi, presented at the Nebo Art Gallery, is inconceivable without its spatial context
22 December, 12:04
Photo courtesy of the organizers

Andrii Tsoi, a Ukrainian painter, was born in 1971 in Murmansk, Russia. After graduation from the Vuchetych State Art College (Dnipro, 1990) and the National Academy of Fine Arts and Architecture (Kyiv, 1997), he stayed to teach at the latter. Tsoi has held personal exhibits in Vancouver, Canada (2005) and Vilnius, Lithuania (2007). He is member of the Ukraine-wide union of painters BZh-ART.

It should be mentioned from the very start that “Fetish” exhibits masterly salon paintings. It has all the attributes of high-quality salon art: abundant ormolu, clear object orientation, quotes from ancient engravings or pop-art images up to Mickey Mouse, pretty birds and mysterious faces, church chalices, inscriptions in foreign languages and letters of foreign alphabet, metaphysical motifs, pathetic names like Solus or Stella Maris… And it would absolutely not be worth discussing if it were not for the context.

Property prices in Lypky are exorbitant, each square meter must be put to use and pay back, so Nebo is not your classical art gallery. It also functions as a book and design store, a parlor, a framing store, and a children’s art school. Tables and stands with goods, big arm-chairs, dozens of easels: the canvases are totally lost in such an overloaded interior. However, the situation of a relaxed visual interaction between the viewer and the author was obviously not envisaged.

For in fact both the exhibit and the gallery, whose name due to the spelling in Latin letters resembles rather a trade brand (we shall for the time being overlook the absence of a Ukrainian version on their Russian-English language site), are components of a certain life philosophy. It is not for nothing that Nebo lies in the newly built neighborhood Pecherski Lypky. This is a typical “elite compound” with prohibitive prices resembling a commercial ad: a colony of high rise apartment buildings tucked away behind Soviet-style blocks of flats. The neighborhood is a true city within a city, which is only accessible for vehicles through barrier gates, and for pedestrians through a digital code door, and security posts are on every corner. You would even never need to leave it, for it has all the amenities, from restaurants and hairdresser salons to supermarkets to parks and gyms.

What should art be like in such a place then? Precisely like this. Maximally ostentatious, moderately mysterious in content, easy to identify by details: in a word, comfortable. But the name saves the day. It is utterly honest: salon paintings are a fetish, they are made for the rich and bought by them, to “make life beautiful.” And what is our immature capitalism if not a total fetish cult where, after all, there is no difference between a new cell phone, another Jeep, or a painting by a fashionable artist?

We do not know if Tsoi implied any hidden senses when he chose this particular name for his exposition. In any case, the gesture is quite ironic.

Yet to appreciate this irony to the full, you need to ascend from the metro station, walk out onto a dirty, noisy crossing, ask directions from half-frozen elderly ladies who sell their cheap stuff right from the ground, and squeeze through shabby stalls and destitute apartment blocks sliding on icy sidewalks, before you may ask sullen black-clad securities at a check point for a permission to pass.

Only then will the “Fetish” let you see its true colors.

The exhibit is open for visitors through December 25.

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