Tag Archives: ukrainian culture

The Kiev Biennial of Contemporary Art (Part 1 of 2)

If Ukrainians tired of the Euro Cup 2012 festivities this summer, there was another option– ARSENALE 2012: The Kiev Biennial of Contemporary Art. A complex name for a complex exhibit. The number of photo’s  taken during my visit would be extreme to try to fit into one post. So instead, the exhibition will be spread over between Tuesday and Friday. I will work from the outside to the inside of Mystetskyi Arsenale; first, discussing the building itself and second (on Friday), discussion of the artists themselves. The patio of arsenale had the feel of a swanky invite only part, with live music and expensive drinks. At the same time, I also felt right at home because the exhibits had signs in English so I could actually read a bit.

The Kiev Biennial of Contemporary Art was thought provoking, well curated and highly anticipated in the international art world. It was also well timed, coinciding with the summer tourist rush and the added bonus of the Euro Cup football fans. One of the very best parts of this exhibit was the variety of people who attended this exhibit. The people came dressed in every variety; I got to see Ukrainian hipster students, socialites of every age, and those from the international scene.

All of the greatest museums demand a great gallery space. The Mystetskyi Arsenal or Art Arsenal is no exception. When restorations are finished, Arsenale will provide more than 50,000 square meters of gallery space. Construction of the space began in 1783, with the building mostly being used for military and defense purposes.After the fall of the Soviet Union, the building lost its usefulness.  Many locals don’t really consider it one of the more beautiful buildings in Kiev, having passed it for years on the way to somewhere else. Almost everyone agrees that it is a fabulous space for art exhibitions. What remains true today of Arsenale, is that the cavernous space is a meaningful gallery space and hosting large crowds.  I must be honest; the size of the exhibit–there is nearly 250 installments–is something I would have to set aside a whole week to fully absorb. Instead, I made it part of the way through. The slide show is a peek at some of the exhibits:

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Stop by on Friday to read about the artists that will were part of the biennial and see more photo’s of the exhibit.

I would also like to mention that the photoblog Toemail featured one of my posts about Landscape Alley. Their website is devoted to photos with (you guessed it!) toes! Stop by their site to see some other places toes have recently visited.

Besarabsky Rynok or the Most Fancy Market in Kiev

This is an entrance to the market.

I was always curious about Besarabsky Rynok, but happening across a New York Times article  “36 hours in Kiev, Ukraine” by Finn Olaf Jones, solidified the food market on my destination list.  The trip to any city market is exciting to me, but what makes Besarabsky Rynok unique is the variety of goods offered. For instance, anything that can be consumed in pickled form can probably be found here. This is less of an international food market, and more of a national tribute to Ukrainian cuisine. In addition to fresh cut meats, you can find Ukrainian sweets and dried fruits here. It is considered by locals to have the best quality produce, but also the highest prices. I am keen on believing this because when I entered on a Saturday evening, I was one of a small number of people there–maybe due to the prohibitive prices. There is a particular group of people who tend to shop here–Ministers of Parliament, it is somewhat close to their offices and they have no shortage of money.  And contrary to almost any other market in Ukraine, you shouldn’t dream of negotiating with the vendors at Besarabsky Rynok.

Men wade through the dried goods stand.

My time in the market was cut short by a security guard telling me that I cannot take pictures. For a moment I tried to communicate in English and then gave up, disappointed, but my most enduring feeling was irritation. At a certain point, my most immature side surfaced and I sneaked a few more photos before stealthily leaving.

Meat is an essential part of the Ukrainian diet, being a vegetarian there can quickly get monotonous.
The Produce Section.

The other main way to get your produce in Ukraine is through a generic grocery store or through women who sell their goods on the roadside stands. I would deduct that most people use a combination to feed their family.

The “Pickled Everything” counter.

Above is an example of the enormous amount of pickled items available here. Would you try one of the pickled items available? I suspect that Ukrainians are so fond of pickling and preserving due to the harsh winters, at least compared to a mild Atlanta winter. I was reminded that this is one of the few places where the vendors would actually shout at me in English, which is relatively rare in Ukraine. How they knew I was English speaking, I will never know.

Art in the Park: Kiev’s Landscape Alley

Since Landscape Alley is situated pretty high up on a hill, it also provides some amazing views of the city.

We are back for a second look at Landscape Alley today. In the first part, I mentioned that all of the artwork and sculptures were created by Ukrainian artists. It is probably one of the most popular tourist destinations in the city, especially when taking into account that it’s free. The perspective of an outsider is that this is some great public art.

This playground is much more colorful than the standard ones at each of the apartment complexes.

When Landscape Alley first opened to the public in Kiev, I have been told that some local residents really liked it, while others thought it was an embarrassment to the city. They would exclaim that this was not art, and the artists were just trying to make a mockery of the city. Now that Landscape Alley has had time to grown on the residents, there was a collective agreement that more sculptures should be added to Landscape Alley.

This bench is a great piece in how imaginative and functional it is.


A sort of phenomenon that tourists might notice while trekking to the various attractions, is that young Ukrainian women dress up (maybe in their new favorite dress) then they go to some premeditated destination in the city with a trusted friend and will spend a lot of time taking pictures in front of statutes or posing in new settings. I am willing to bet that within a couple of hours those photos will appear on the Russian version of Facebook. This “hobby” can add time to your minute with the statue for family photos, but more importantly you are getting a taste of modern Ukrainian culture! Ukraine is a very image conscious place, they have more than one channel dedicated to fashion/model culture, so this may play a role in why you have a twenty something hanging out with the fanny pack crowd.

Part of the lure of Landscape Alley is how family friendly it is, and having multiple playgrounds in one relatively short walk is part of that reputation.
This is a little neighborhood in Kiev, tucked into a valley which is below Landscape Alley. It’s so quiet down there!

**Note to Readers: I am not from Ukraine and I have no language skills to speak of, so if you have any details to add about Ukraine, please don’t hesitate to bring them into the conversation! Thanks. Elise