Monday, May 11, 2009

Damien Hirst in Kyiv

Ukraine doesn't make the US news much--except for the gas crisis this past winter. But this weekend, the Washington Post did an article on Damien Hirst's exhibit at the Pinchuk Art Centre. I visited the Pinchuk several times, including this opening, and did a presentation on museum education, with a focus on contemporary art museums, to their staff (who were thoughtful and interested despite being just days before this opening--and evidently it's harder to install flies than you might think!)

When I read this, I'm most interested in the comments from visitors--

"The world is cruel, and this is a picture of real cruelty. It makes you think."

[I am] "shocked and on the verge of tears looking at this. It's as if the world has gone mad."

"I was very curious to see this...For me, I can hardly call it art. It's zoology."

"I think I might leave my body to an artist like this."

For Ukrainians, for whom the Soviet system of "approved" artists has left a difficult legacy, the opportunity to see work like Hirst's, whether they like it or not, is drawing thousands of visitors. When I first visited the Pinchuk I longed for some interpretation--and found none. I understand from their director, Eckhard Schneider, that they have hired and trained young people to give guided tours for this exhibition--and that training even included a tour with Hirst himself. A great new step--I'm anxious to hear how it's worked out. Museum tours in Ukraine were often delivered lecture-style and Hirst's work seems particularly suited to tours framed more around conversation and discussion. And, I hope they're doing a little evaluation to find out what visitors thought about the tours.

Top to bottom:
Crowd at opening weekend outside the Pinchuk Art Centre; Damien Hirst signing autographs outside the opening; at the Hirst opening

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