Yayoi Kusama To Headline Kiev Biennale Arsenale 2012


New artworks by Kusama and Phyllida Barlow, alongside major pieces by Ai Weiwei, Louise Bourgeois, Chapman Bros, and Paul McCarthy, to populate first Kiev international biennale

ARSENALE 2012, the first international Kiev international Biennale, has today announced the list of artists and highlights of works to be included in the main programme. Dubbed ‘The Best of Times, The Worst of Times. Rebirth and Apocalypse in Contemporary Art’, the Biennale will display art work by over 100 international and Ukrainian contemporary artists, including 40 new works to be made especially for the exhibition. All of the works will be on display in the historic Mystetskyi Arsenal from 24 May until 31 July 2012.


Highlights among the 40 new works:

Footprints of Eternity, a new site-specific immersive installation by YAYOI KUSAMA. Flanked by two large new paintings, the installation will be specially made for the Biennale by the Japanese artist. Kusama will also present an earlier reflection box work entitled Aftermath of the Obliteration of Eternity (2009).

British artist PHYLLIDA BARLOW will create Rift, a new three-part site-specific work with hoardings, industrial elements and “bombs” that will respond to the massive columns, vaults and military history of the imposing Arsenal building.

Indian artist JITISH KALLAT will also be creating a new work for the Biennale, a walk through installation comprised of the projection of a letter written in 1939 from Mahatma Ghandi to Adolph Hitler, urging the Dictator “for the sake of humanity” to avoid war.

A new series of large images of factories by BORIS MIKHAILOV (born in Kharkiv, Ukraine) will both liberate and capture the superannuated power of the era of Soviet heavy industry which has scarred vast tracts of Ukraine. The images feature behemoths of iron and steel that dwarf the few surviving workers, projecting bittersweet memories of construction and sacrifice into an anti-heroic present.

American painter FRED TOMASELLI will present two new large apocalyptic works he has made especially for the Biennale. Corresponding to the theme of the exhibition, they reflect the Gothic underbelly of a society spinning out of control.


And among the pre-exisiting major artworks:

Chinese artist AI WEI WEI’s large-scale installation Zodiac Heads/Circle of Animals, a series of twelve bronze animal heads depicting figures in the Chinese zodiac and based on 18th century sculptures designed by Jesuit Court artist Giuseppe Castiglione. Originally created for the Old Imperial Summer Palace on the outskirts of Beijing, these heads were looted and destroyed by British and French troops in 1860.

Three cell works from 1992, 1998 and 2006 by French artist LOUISE BOURGEOIS will also be shown. These enclosed installations include arrangements of both real and symbolic objects and indicate one of the main themes of ARSENALE 2012: the past is both a prison and a source of creative liberation.

American artist PAUL MCCARTHY will show his work The King for the first time outside of London. This monumental installation consists of a silicone model of the artist, wearing a blond wig sitting naked on a platform. Whether it is a throne room, altar or artist’s studio, it is not clear whether we should be venerating his body rather than obeying it.

Referring to the infamous Nazi exhibition of 1937, JAKE & DINOS CHAPMAN present an updated view of ‘Degenerate Art’ in their exhibition of large ‘childish’ cutouts viewed by a grotesque skeletal public dressed in SS uniforms and branded with smiley faces.

The First Kiev Biennale will display these works alongside work by prominent contemporary artists from Ukraine including ILYA & EMILIA KABAKOV, OLEG KULIK and BORIS MIKHAILOV. Ilya Kabakov (born in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine) will present his vast installation Monument to the Lost Civilisation. This work pulls apart the system that ruled over Russia, Ukraine and many other states for over seventy years. The contrasting visions exposed by the Kabakovs of official and interior life during the time of the Soviet Union will show in the artists’ words “…a dream, a wonderful paradise where everything works [and]…completely the opposite. It is depressing, pessimistic about the future, life is miserable. It is a crazy combination of everyday life and the paradise constructed by propaganda.”

ARSENALE 2012 will explore David Elliott’s elaboration of the first words of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities that was set at the time of the French revolution: “It was the best of times, the worst of times”. On one level this considers how contemporary art needs the past to express the future, but in another way it looks at how the past has become like a prison and that it is now necessary to break down its walls. The main exhibition has been conceptualised around four non mutually exclusive hub ideas: The Restless Spirit looks at the way we drive strength from beliefs, myths and cosmogonies unfettered by material needs; In the Name of Order examines how under the pretext of rationalism, power attempts to dominate culture through the creation of self-serving hierarchies; Flesh takes the frailty and appetites of the human body as its central theme and The Unquiet Dream focuses on nightmares and premonitions without which we are unable to develop or change.

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