Artists Struggle in Lviv Ukraine

Friday, February 1, 2013
Artists have always been known to live on the edge. It is this very edge that has kept them sensitive, creative and imaginative. But what about survival for the-"starving artist"? Short of being a Picasso or a Van Gogh, most artists struggle to survive at the best of times. Add to this equation a creative person living in a developing country and you have the formula for a very challenging life. Such is the situation for my artist friends living in Lviv, Ukraine.
Lviv has had a very turbulent history mired with the repression and oppression by conquering rivals. Its' most recent domination has been by the Soviet Regime. The independence from this regime only occurred in 1991, therefore many contemporary artists have lived through this period. So how exactly did the creative community in Lviv fare during this very totalitarian era?
Communist rule imposed upon its' art community a very specific type of art called-socialist realism. This art form was meant to depict man's struggle towards an heroic common good. The dome at the airport in Lviv and the dome of the Ivan Franko university also in Lviv have painted murals that are fine examples of this genre.
Unfortunately, this art style was imposed at the exclusion of any other creative expression actually repressing any other art form. The artists lived through a very dark period of censorship where they were forbidden to expression their true feelings and vision. Joseph Stalin was very instrumental in stifling talent and restricting artistic license. Under his iron fist, artists were employed by the state and were dictated to create strictly propaganda art. The KGB had strict orders to confiscate and pillage any art that expressed religion (such as ancient Icons) or any paintings having political motives.
Finally there came Gorbachev's "Perestrioka" lifting the iron curtain and freeing art and creative expression. Ukraine gained it's independence in 1991 and Lviv's art scene almost immediately came out of the dark. Unfortunately, it was not to experience the great promises of freedom that one had hoped.
The present day- Yanukovych government is quickly moving back towards totalitarianism which greatly restricts freedom of speech and expression. This directly affects the art community. They are restricted from expressing social or political imagery, a vital role of the artist in society. The artist is again limited to conform to the demands of a ruling party and it's galleries controlled and supported by it's billionaires.
Another major problem is where to find the art buying audience. The poverty level in Lviv is very high and unemployment is rampant. According to the world bank, 24.6 per cent of the population there live in real poverty. If people can barely buy the essentials, how pray tell are they to afford art? The elitist minority, made up of multi-billionaire oligarchs are the only ones who can buy art. Unfortunately, this group pf thugs does not necessarily have taste. Also, they are more inclined to buy art abroad then support the local culture so a to impress their "fat cat" friends.
As we have seen, the artists in Lviv have and continue to have very difficult lives. Luckily these people are true survivors! They march ahead despite the barricades and struggle to execute their skills and talents. As a result, artists continue to paint and show beautiful still lives, breath taking landscapes, striking portraits. The burgeoning art scene in Lviv has resulted in an explosion of new and exciting galleries on the cityscape. The main public galleries are the Lviv Art Gallery and the "Palace Mictectv". The number of private galleries are growing at a rapid rate and they include: LivArt, Primus, The Green Sofa, Chaos and the list goes on. Of course Lviv boasts a National Academy of the arts and the Lviv State College of Applied Arts.
As a long time and avid collector, I congratulate all of my artist friends in Lviv. They are a vital cultural voice of the nation. Only through their persistence and creativity will the society be energized, stimulated and continue to evolve.


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