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Young Ukrainian art market. Anna Avetova interview

Anna Avetova is a Ukrainian art manager, curator, and contemporary art specialist. In 2016 she founded TUASHO agency, which is engaged in consulting in the creative sphere, management of cultural projects and sale of works of contemporary artists, participates in international fairs and festivals, cooperates with museums and auction houses. We spoke to Anna about the state of the Ukrainian art-sphere, its perspectives, and how Ukrainian art is searching for its national identity and reaching the global level.

Contemporary artist is his own manager

According to Anna Avetova, contemporary art in Ukraine, like the rest of the world, is polystylistic and has no limits. In general, we can note that Ukrainian artists work with abstraction, hyperrealism, mastering the portrait genre creatively. When Anna chooses artists to work with, she, first of all, pays attention to the quality of the work, what kind of professional techniques the artist has, and secondly, what exactly he or she portrays. Besides, an individual style of an artist can change over time, and Anna says she is most interested in artists who are ready for changes, ready for creative search. If an artist has business skills, this gives him or her a big advantage in today’s art market.

A strong professional is a strong competitor

Anna Avetova believes Ukrainian artists have great potential. The academic school is traditionally strong in Ukraine. However, there is a trap: to be successful in contemporary art, it is not enough to be a strong painter or graphic artist. If a young artist, using the whole arsenal of technical skills, outgrows academism and starts an individual approach, he is really competitive. There are many such artists in Ukraine today. Anna highlights the strong school of sculpture.

National identity: new themes, new images

Young Ukrainian artists successfully explore major themes which world artworks with environmental, gender issues, and so on. But Anna believes that one of their main tasks is not just to follow the world art fashion, but to find a national identity. It is necessary to show foreign viewers not universal American art but something authentic, original, like Ukrainians’ reflection on Ukraine.

Conceptual or beautiful?

Many young artists believe that the world turns around them, that all they have to do is put their feelings onto a canvas and success will come right away. But this was the way art was made in the past century. A work, which is the final product, is always preceded by research into a theme. An artist is obliged to think over and create something new, extraordinary because much has already been painted, molded, and said over the centuries. Of course, not all art in Ukraine today is conceptual, there are just beautiful, spectacular, emotional works. Anna also talks about what people pay attention to when buying a piece. There are professional collectors who make strict demands about following trends, quality, studying an artist’s CV, calculating his prospects, and so on. And there are people who buy what they like, for themselves, as a gift or for the interior. But the main criteria is still quality. The artist has to be technically proficient and take great care in the design of the work, from preparing the canvas and the substrate for the sculpture or choosing the photo paper to the frame. Quality is an asset for any client who must understand what they are paying money for.

Selling wisely: group projects and exclusives

For a young artist, the easiest way to start exhibiting is through group projects at various institutions, which you can access through an open-call, and there are many such projects in Ukraine today, believes Anna Avetova. You should not focus only on the capital city, Kyiv, because there are good galleries and cultural centers in other cities which work with contemporary art. During the quarantine, Ukrainian online platforms, which not only provide an opportunity to sell work but also create cool projects, are rapidly developing. You can also get into exhibitions abroad through open-call, but the most reliable way is to develop a personal brand, make good pages on social media, create a website for your works so that galleries and dealers notice them, and start inviting you to cooperate. But, Anna warns, exhibiting your work everywhere is not a good idea. The contemporary art market is returning to a model of exclusive cooperation.

Art open to the world

Art fairs are one of the favorite activities of Anna Avetova, and her agency consistently represents the works of Ukrainian artists abroad. The number of Ukrainian participants in the various fairs increases every year; in recent months alone, the country has been represented in Turkey, Miami, Rome, Dubai, and Anna Avetova has been to Switzerland and Hungary (Budapest) in person. Some Ukrainian artists exhibit at fairs on their own or through foreign galleries. Anna is delighted to see Ukrainian artists becoming successful and in demand in the global market. Although TUASHO has not yet had direct work experience with foreign galleries, this is a short-term prospect. Next year already, collaboration with a gallery in Dubai will begin, where Ukrainian artists will present their projects and meet a newly interested audience.

The pandemic has not frightened

“Ukrainian art-sphere feels great during the pandemic!” – says Anna Avetova. The number of projects at her agency has increased by ten times, sales have grown considerably. The cultural sector is looking for new work opportunities, exhibition spaces are opening, and institutions are implementing ambitious ideas.