The first exhibition is an extensive retrospective dedicated to Boris Mikhailov, among the most important living artists to have grown up in the ex-Soviet Union.
The central theme of the show –made up of over 300 items – is the author’s homeland, Ukraine: recounted, described and deformed over a time span stretching from the ‘60s up to the recent Euromaidan revolution.
The exhibition itinerary thus develops three different directives, each combined and intertwining with the others: the last 50 years of history of Ukraine may be traced, from its Soviet past to independence right up to the latest revolutions, which have brought this country into the media spotlight, making it crucial stage for the dressing of global political and economic balances; Mikhailov’s artistic career, characterised by an endless series of experimentations with a diverse range of media and aesthetics; lastly, it may be noted how the theme of Ukraine has been progressively integrated into Mikhailov’s work, shifting from documentation to reconstruction, from theatricalisation to diary-writing, and from the narrative to the anti-narrative.
Ukraine includes 9 series, each representative of a key moment in the articulation of the exhibition themes: Superimpositions (1968-75), Black Archive (1968-79), Red Series (1968-75), Luriki (1976-81), Crimean Snobbism (1981), At Dusk (1993), Case History (1997-98), Tea Coffee Cappuccino (2000-2010) and The Theater of War (2013).
Mikhailov’s images allow us to move through the life and works of one of the key figures in the history of contemporary art, at the same time piecing back together an alternative and personal version of an entire national historiography.
The exhibition is accompanied by a publication which cannot simply be considered a catalogue. Instead of including the works on show, it is in fact dedicated to a selection of more than 500 photographs gathered by Mikhailov over the years to make up a sort of personal diary. An essay examining the theme addressed in the exhibition – the Ukrainian artist’s ongoing reflections on his homeland – is coupled with various different images, constituting a sort of final room that visitors may explore privately once the visit is over.
Boris Mikhailov is a Ukrainian photographer. In Soviet times he worked as an engineer at a factory in Kharkiv while pursuing his passion for photography, which he began exhibiting in the 1960s. After KGB agents discovered his shots of his naked wife, he was accused of distributing pornography. He was forced to leave the factory and make a living with odd jobs, reserving some spare time for art. In his photographic series, Mikhailov addresses social themes, using concrete examples to show the state of society and changes brought by perestroika. In the 1990s Mikhailov began to exhibit in the West and soon received recognition from the international art community. Mikhailov has been awarded numerous international photography prizes. He has had solo exhibitions at major art institutions in the United States and Europe, and his works are in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum, New York; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.