Deposed Ukrainian President’s Outrageously Tasteless Art Collection Goes on Display

Viktor Yanukovych's kitshy collection is on view at Kiev's National Art Museum.

People wander around President Viktor Yanukovych's Mezhyhirya estate, which was abandoned by security, on February 22, 2014 in Kyiv, Ukraine. Ukrainian members of parliament have voted to oust Yanukovych. Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images.

Not only has Viktor Yanukovych been driven from power as Urkraine’s president, forced to abandon his opulent official mansion, the whole world can now pass judgment on his poor taste thanks to an exhibition of his expensive, often kitschy artwork, reports the AFP.

As the revolution reached its height in February, Yanukovych fled the country, and thousands of demonstrators flooded the grounds of his luxurious Mezhyhirya Estate. There were lots of pictures and media reports of the private zoo and gold-and-marble-laden mansion, but no looting, and the things he left behind are on view at Kiev’s National Art Museum of Ukraine (through June 26).

The show, “Codex of Mezhyhiria,” will include a wide range of objects: crocodile skins, gilded clocks, antique rifles, religious icons, and countless countenances of the disgraced politician emblazoned on plates and busts, and portrayed in a number of portraits. The show-stopper will undoubtedly be the huge canvas depicting Yanukovych outfitted as a racing driver in Ukrainian blue and yellow. Trophies of his vanity don’t stop there: A framed certificate claims that the former president has a star named in his honor.

Alexander Roitburd, who co-curated the exhibition with Yulia Lytvynets, is quick to chastise Yanukovych for his “outrageous tastelessness,” telling Agence France-Presse that the revolution might have been avoided “if the fourth president of our poor country had at least a little less… redneck taste and maybe a slightly more modest house.”

As he fled his mansion, packing up as many paintings and sculptures as his team could carry, Yanukovych attempted to burn sensitive papers. Despite his efforts, journalists recovered records of extravagant purchases: $41 million in gold chandeliers and a $1,000 vet bill for a pet fish. While some might be disturbed by such an excessive show of wealth in a relatively impoverished country, Lytvynets wants “to let people know, the Ukrainian citizens, what was inside, what was behind closed doors, far from people’s eyes for years.”

Yanukovych also decorated his homes and offices with artwork pilfered from the Ukrainian national collection. As artnet News reported last month, many of those paintings have now been reclaimed by the country’s museums and cultural institutions.

A large number of artists participated in the recent revolution, and their politically-charged art has been the subject of exhibitions in Vienna (“I Am a Drop in the Ocean“) and Kiev (“The Fire of Love. Devoted to the Maidan“).

Meanwhile, the uncertain political climate in the region is having ramifications in the American art world as well, reports the New York Times. New York’s Ukrainian Museum is opening a new exhibit, “Taras Shevchenko: Poet, Artist, Icon,” on May 11, but the planned loan of 50 works from Kiev’s Taras Shevchenko National Museum has been jeopardized by political upheaval in the country. Already pushed back from a planned March opening, the show may now be further delayed due to visa complications. Meanwhile, in Cleveland, the Ukrainian Museum-Archives would like to have a Shevchenko oil painting examined and hopefully authenticated in Ukraine, but transporting the work there is no longer realistic.

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