"This is one of the most prestigious art centres in Eastern Europe," says Peter Doroshenko of the PinchukArtCentre, of which he's president and artistic director. "It's the best private museum idea of the last year. Paris is Paris, but here we have something unique."
Doroshenko, a proud product of Chicago's Ukrainian Diaspora community, moved to Kyiv full time this past December, when his duties as the cutting-edge institution's leader made it necessary for him to be more present here. Before that he'd split his time between Kyiv and the UK, spending a lot of time in the air. Doroshenko first came to Kyiv in 1993 before the Centre for Contemporary Art opened.
The Centre's director back then was the illustrious Ukrainian art-world figure Marta Kuzma, who invited the prominent Ukrainian-American curator to consult on the new facility. After that he came back to talk to people about contemporary art, about Andy Warhol (another Ukrainian Diaspora figure), and other topics. He also started bringing Ukrainian artists like Sergey Bratkov and Ilya Chichkan to show in Chicago. Next he moved to Belgium to work at the big contemporary art museum SMAK before he moved to the Baltic Centre in Newcastle, UK Which bring us, finally, to the PinchukArtCentre, where he's worked since the institution's 2006 opening. The move feels good to him because, as the son of Ukrainian immigrants, he grew up with the Ukrainian idea. "I'm very happy to work with a great team," Doroshenko says. 'And the PinchukArtCentre is rising fast. We had visitors from all over the world coming to see 'Reflexion' and that's great. People came by plane from New %rk, Vienna, and Paris just to see the show." 'Reflexion', of course, was the blockbuster show featuring work by Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, and other contemporary art superstars that had Kyivans lining up outside the ArtCentre. Viktor Pin-chuk's gift to Kyiv, the ArtCentre is serving a useful educational func- tion. Contemporary art is something that Ukrainians haven't had a lot of exposure to, and the way to attract them is to do what the Centre is doing: show the best Western artists in a slick space, and put the work of Ukrainian artists up beside them. "We're making an impact," Doroshenko says with a smile.
Architecture is Next
What does Peter like about Kyiv? Walking the streets or sitting in a cafe and catching the conversation at the next table. He's also visited all the local art galleries, just to see what artists are doing here. He walks everywhere, up to 10 or 15 kilometres a day, just so that he can get a feel of the city beyond the daily grind. Recently, he said, he was walking in Podil's Zhytniy market and accidentally bumped into somebody. The guy looked him over and remarked that Doroshenko looked like a foreigner. They started talking, and Peter got a long speech about where the best milk in Kyiv can be found and where to buy potatoes for a reasonable price. The man told him how to get to Obolon and lots of other practical things besides. "I wish I'd had a pen to write some of it down," he says. A week later he met another talkative Kyivite not far from where he lives near the Palace Ukraine metro statioa Late at night in the supermarket he ran into a woman who started telling him her life story, starting with her entering university, proceeding through her marriage, and extending into her engineering career. Other customers watched Doroshenko and the woman huddled together and assumed they were insane. "Everybody in Kyiv has a story," he says. "And they're beautiful and real. It's fantastic material for artists and writers. Cinema will grow very quickly here because there is a strong background, everything from the history of art is here." One thing that makes Peter happy is that the fashion industry is moving to Kyiv, and the domestic fashion industry is coming up. "bu'll hear such names as Armani and Mark Jacobs and then you'll hear people start talking about Lilya Poustovit or Volodymyr Podolyan, and it's amazing," he says, describing the UK "Lilya is in Comme de Garcons on Dover Street and that's really a very big step up for Ukrainian fashion. All the people from the fashion world and the journalists were talking about it. She was in all the newspapers. I heard Lilya Poustovit's name come up all the time when there was a conversation about Ukraine. At the same time, interior design is developing as well here in Kyiv. The only thing that's missing from the cultural sphere is architecture. But in five to ten the years the scene will appear and it will grow like mushrooms after the rain." "Everything that I do is positive and it's full of emotions for me. Everything we do at the Centre is to help artists," Doroshenko adds. "Maybe that's old-school but this is largely about giving back to the audience. There are many young Ukrainian artists who will do well if they do the work And I'm sure they will." Right now Doroshenko is working on a new art project that will open at the PinchukArtCentre at the beginning of April. It will be a stunning show by the world renowned, not to mention glamourous and beautiful, Japanese artist Mariko Mori, which could well prove as popular as Reflection