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A man stands looks through a door of the Lviv National Art Gallery with windows protected by sandbags in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on March 7, 2022, 12 days after Russia launched a military invasion on Ukraine. Photo: Yuriy Dyachyshyn / AFP via Getty Images.

After Hiding Its Prized Collection From Russian Troops, Ukraine’s Largest Art Museum Is Reinstalling It in a Show of Resistance

Earlier this year, Ukrainian museums rushed to hide their collections for fear that invading Russian troops would steal or destroy the country’s cultural heritage.

In some cases, those fears have been realized. Russian troops have looted more 2,000 artworks from cultural institutions in Mariupol, local officials claim, while other sites in the Ukrainian port city, including the Kuindzhi Art Museum and the Babyn Yar Holocaust memorial complex, have been razed by military attacks. 

But now, at least one important Ukrainian art museum is putting its prized possessions back on view as a gesture of resistance.

According to the New York Times, the Borys Voznytskyi Lviv National Art Gallery in western Ukraine is reinstalling artworks across its 18 branches—some of which are open now. 

“Putin now has the goal of turning Ukrainians into nobody, into nothing,” the gallery’s director, Taras Voznyak, told the Times. “In order to show that we are alive, we have opened several branches.” 

Voznyak explained that the gallery’s main museum, located in Lviv’s historic Lozinsky Palace, may reopen to the public as soon as next month, and that the institution is planning a series of online exhibitions as well. Someday, Voznyak added, he would like to build underground exhibition spaces to allow for art to be shown in times of war.  

A man stands looks through a door of the Lviv National Art Gallery with windows protected by sandbags in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on March 7, 2022, 12 days after Russia launched a military invasion on Ukraine. Photo: Yuriy Dyachyshyn / AFP via Getty Images.

A man stands looks through a door of the Lviv National Art Gallery with windows protected by sandbags in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on March 7, 2022, 12 days after Russia launched a military invasion on Ukraine. Photo: Yuriy Dyachyshyn / AFP via Getty Images.

Voznyak, like other museum leaders in his position, stashed important museum-owned artworks in secret locations after Russia invaded Ukraine in February. It was no easy task: The largest art museum in Ukraine, the Lviv National Art Gallery maintains a collection of some 65,000 artworks, including pieces by Wojciech Gerson, Francisco Goya, and Peter Paul Rubens.

Perhaps the newest names to enter the collection are Vlada Ralko and Volodymyr Budnikov, two Ukrainian artists who fled the country earlier this year and holed up in an unused museum gallery for a month. There, they went to work making art about the conditions of war.

The two artists eventually donated their creations back to the museum. 

“This art was created in these times, in this palace,” Voznyak said. “It’s living art.”


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