Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine by Russia began in February, artists, auction houses, and galleries have rallied in support of the besieged nation, often through fundraising efforts. The latest initiative is Sonya, a pop-up exhibition in Manhattan’s East Village which features works from 10 contemporary Ukrainian artists, some of whom are at the front lines of this battle.
The show benefits the Sunflower Network, which to date has delivered more than $1 million in humanitarian aid to Ukraine in the form of ambulances, medical supplies, and hygiene products. Every work in the show was transported from Ukraine to New York by the Sunflower Network, and the press release notes that all gallery proceeds will “be used to fuel our mission of delivering humanitarian aid to Ukrainians in need.”
“Our hope is that each viewer walks away with a newfound sense of connection, be it to a piece of work, an artist’s story, the culture at large, or simply to human beings in need,” Dustin J. Ross, CEO of the Sunflower Network, told ARTnews.
He added, “Some of the artists have been forced to pause their work as a result of the invasion, be it because of a call to fight or a sheer loss of motivation in the face of war. Others have found renewed inspiration, using their medium to reflect personal and collective trauma under the threat of cultural annihilation.”
Many participating artists hail from Kharkiv—a region in eastern Ukraine liberated from Russian occupation in September—and studied at the Kharkiv State Academy of Design and Arts. Among the Kharkiv contingent is Bob Basset (born Serhii Petrov), whose wearable art has been exhibited worldwide. His 2012 sculpture Cyberdog Gasmask, made of leather and a gas filter, is for sale. Eerie and empty-eyed, it conjures visions chemical attacks, rising dust, nuclear fallout.
Konstantyn Lyzogub, another Kharkiv native, is included here; he enlisted in the Ukrainian Army at the start of the war. For Sonya, he has contributed two large-scale paintings.
There is also a noble portrait of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, titled My Hero Dreams (2020), by Polina Kuznetsova, who envisions the leader dressed in a rose-pink crinkled tarp.
Anna Moskalets, who represented Ukraine at the 2019 Venice Biennale, has contributed five paintings that render everyday Ukrainian women with the poise of classical European portraiture, returning dignity to those who have endured gendered horrors under occupation. Yearning, reaching bodies abound in the paintings of another Anna, Anna Bondar. A ring of sun-lit figures reminiscent of Matisse clasp their hands and crane their faces towards the sky.
All of these works will be available for sale through December 2.