Yulianna Vilkos, Kyiv Post Staff Writer
by Yulianna Vilkos, Kyiv Post Staff Writer
May 11 2005, 00:12
© Serhiy Zavalnyuk
Kyiv sculptor Oleksiy Vladimirov readily admits that, "It's not the lack of clients that is a challenge for a sculptor today." The demand for art is actually growing, he explains, but that doesn't mean the art people want is tasteful.
"Sculpture is like classical music: few people like it, because few can understand it," says Kyiv sculptor Oleksiy Vladimirov, as he sits in his downtown Kyiv studio surrounded by his original marble, wooden and bronze works.
"Those who acquire genuine sculpture are people with sophisticated artistic tastes and deep spiritual lives," he says as he turns his loving look onto one of his creations.
"And," he adds, "they are usually very rich people." The cost of the sculpture, according to Vladimirov, varies from $400 for a 30-centimeter bronze statuette to as much as $30,000 for a marble work. Individuals who combine taste and wealth are still rare in Ukraine, but Vladimirov says the demand for sculpture has been growing in recent years.
"It's not the lack of clients that is a challenge for a sculptor today," says Vladimirov, who claims there are plenty of opportunities for artists to make a living nowadays.
"The challenge is how to work creatively and to maintain a decent lifestyle while not depending on clients' orders."
Buying into sculpture
Those orders have lately been rolling in regularly, says Vladimirov. They're keeping pace with the boom in private cottage-building on the outskirts of the city, and the subsequent need to decorate the interiors of these cottages.
"People started to understand that an open space should be complemented by some kind of form, because a space needs a sculptural form just like a wall needs a painting."
Interior design, he says, is also increasingly becoming a matter of image, ambition and competition among Ukraine's nouveaux riches. Patrons' needs tend to follow a pattern. Vladimirov says the vast majority want their homes furnished "a la classique," which, for his clients, can be everything from Egyptian to antique to Renaissance to Baroque styles. Lack of art education and absence of a developed art market both contribute to a situation where people end up with kitsch rather than tasteful art work, says Vladimirov.
"Imagine a guy from the provinces who suddenly got lucky and created a successful business. He wants something to make his living place look esthetic, but he does not know exactly what he wants," says Vladimirov.
He recalled a restaurant owner who decorated his eatery with Egyptian-style statues and relief work.
"Apparently, nobody told him that ancient Egyptian sculpture is memorial, so what was meant to look ancient and exotic turned the establishment into a place full of tombstones," said Vladimirov.
While such examples abound around the city, original modern work - the province of sculptors like Vladimirov - still isn't fully understood, the artist says. Vladimirov's work is acquired mostly by diplomats, although Vladimirov says an increasing number of Ukrainians are patronizing him as well. He says Ukrainian artists are starting to act as educators, explaining to natives the value of their art - and why it's better than historical kitsch.
"It takes time for people to understand what worthwhile art is...when they have nowhere to look for an example, the artist himself has to work with clients," Vladimirov says. He says that he manages to sell work to even the most stubborn clients.
The sculptor believes that the establishment of the long-discussed Museum of Modern Art in the Ukrainian capital would help alter tastes, by setting standards to which new art work could be compared.
For an established artist like Vladimirov, however, recognition is not the issue. His works are found in the collections of many Ukrainian art museums, as well as in private collections in the U.S., Great Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Sweden, Austria, and the Netherlands. One of his works - "The Master and Margarita" - landed on Andriivsky Uzviz in Kyiv, right in front of the museum dedicated to the Kyiv-born Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov.
The sculptor has even started gathering pieces depicting collectors of his works. Now there are quite a number of those in his studio. "To me, a client who has purchased three sculptures is already a collector," explains Vladimirov, who says he models a person's bust for free.
Vladimirov is optimistic about the future of his occupation. He believes that an interest in art and sculpture has been growing in Ukraine, and it is a sign of a steadily developing economy.
"It's economic chaos when the only thing the people are concerned about is how to survive," he notes. "But if middle-class Ukrainians can afford $400-$1,000 sculptures already, this is a definitely positive trend."