The Fine Arts Museum has been around for 115 years and still solidly keeps its place on the list of the best art museums in Ukraine. It is a unique chronology of fine arts from XVI to XXI centuries with all the variety of sorts, genres, styles and forms. The biggest part of the collection belongs to the Odessa Art School or to the artists, who, some kind, were connected to Odessa. The artworks by Kandinsky, Aivazovsky, Vrubel and also works, made by less well-known artists are valuable properties nowadays.
We discussed a few urgent questions with Andrii Bondarenko, the project manager of OFAM.
I: Who is your visitor today?
A: The average museum visitor is somebody from another city or country. The majority of our visitors are foreigners, tourists, who came into the city but I think it is a shame that citizens don’t visit the museum more often. The true museum visitor is the one who asks questions. The one who needs an answer.
I: Then, what is a meaning of museum as a space, in your opinion?
A: First of all, the museum has to ask a question. It has to provoke, involve society and make bold statements. The museum is urged to liberate. Tasks of the museum and university are similar. The university has to teach students how to live and coexist, without any censorship. The museum has to actualize a question or a problem with everybody, who visits it. No matter what is right or wrong, good or bad.
Secondly, Ukrainian space is another kind of artistic space. We can’t and we shouldn’t monetize art. Our artist has a tragic personality. He has to refuse the material goods, getting instead a tribune for talks. You can make art, only if you are not focused on money. The museum doesn’t bring profit. A museum is all about metaphysics.
I: What are you already proud of?
A: With our museum, we have already introduced the first in Ukraine Membership card. We want each citizen to care about the museum. To be a sponsor, a beneficiary. Everyone can buy a membership card and visit our events and lectures. We try to develop the museum with funded money. It is students, pensioners, businessmen. We don't have to wait for anything. We are our own ministry.
I: Are there any negative tendencies?
A:Frankly speaking, there is a weak point of any museum functioning: each artist, who has organised an official art exhibition, a priori receives a high status. It means that a museum does have an institutional factor, but the modern art and the art, in general, is not about giving artists a status. I am waiting for a brochure from The Ministry of Culture, where clearly will be explained what is considered to be art and what is not. It is nonsense. How can you mark something so intangible with bureaucratic standards? I strongly believe that museum has to be subjective, to run to extremes, terrible extremes. Especially now. Because the main paradigm of the human development now is to be tolerant, neutral.
I: What is going to happen in the nearest future?
A:Our project, Museum for Change, is urged to change OFAM. So I hope that in a year our museum will have another material and technical base. It is not a number one priority having an excellent repair in the museum, returning to the question about invested money and received profit. It is much more important for us that the museum could become a hangout. That it could be full of madmen with their ideas, which could be understood, accepted and brought to life nowhere but here.
I: If you could choose only one canvas that fits Odessa the most, that would be?
A:Each generation tries to comprehend one or other historic periods of the city. Usually, when we talk about Odessa, we can witness how people represent Odessa in a different ways from century to century. However, if I had to leave the only one painting in the museum, then it would be ‘The Flight’ by Alexander Atsmanchuk, the painter from Odessa, who worked in the second half of the 20th century. Yes, there is no sea in this painting. But there is something much more special for every person. I think that modern Odessa is not about the stereotypes. Odessa on this painting is expressed in an obvious way: each of us, the citizens, is separated from the imaginary flight with the only one step, the flight showed so brightly on canvas.
I: Finally, is there any big idea behind Museum for Change?
A: Sure! Let’s come up with silly ideas and turn them into life. What about running on canvases totally naked? Great! I, probably, think that it’s not going to happen in a year, by virtue of unavailability of the art space on the one hand and the museum – on the other. But in a years time, people will certainly see an absolutely different picture of the entrance, with new exhibitions and we are also planning to organise a huge art award.
Words by Inha Hezalian