Friday, January 30, 2009
What Do We Hunger For?
This week I had the opportunity to meet with Eckhard Schneider, Director, and Peter Doroshenko, Art Director, of the Pinchuk Art Centre here in Kyiv. The Pinchuk is a contemporary art centre, showing work by artists from the larger global world of contemporary art. It's unlike any other museum or gallery I've visited here in Ukraine--and most intriguing to me is the fact that, every day, lines of people wait to get in the door (admission is free) to see interesting, pretty challenging, contemporary art. First, I should note that the Pinchuk is open every night until 9:00, and we talked about how pleased they were to have made that decision right from the start, as opposed to having hours that are just business hours.
Why do they have lines out the door? Several reasons, I think, based on my conversations both at the Pinchuk and with others. It's a place that has great buzz--many of the visitors are young people, and it's the thing to do. In a discussion with my students, some felt, in a similar vein, that it was about sensation--the shock of the new.
I was most intrigued by the the director's perspective. He felt that contemporary art allowed Ukrainians something they had not been allowed to have--the chance to make their own judgment about something--and that that was something audiences here hungered for. In more traditional fine art and folk art, during Soviet times, there was a prescribed way to appreciate and think about art. But in new contemporary art, it's a chance to make a judgment--perhaps even a snap judgment, on your own. For me then, it gets back to the idea of individual meaning-making. We all bring different eyes, different minds, and different hearts every time we go to a museum. And at Pinchuk, not yet a full fledged museum but serving the same purpose, they provide the buzz of the new, but also something very old, the chance to use art as a way to look inside yourself and at the world around you.
Above: View of "Sigh," by Sam Taylor-Wood at the Pinchuk Art Centre, copyright 2008. Photo by Sergei Illin