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Artist-run galleries and informal spaces started to emerge around Ukraine in the late 1980s*, mapping the previously non-existent sphere of contemporary art. Unlike Kyiv where these self-organized initiatives were gradually replaced by a more or less divaricate infrastructure with commercial galleries, educational projects, rich private art centres and public museum complexes, in cities like Lviv and Uzhhorod artistic communities have until today maintained the functions of the art system, being producers, distributors, mediators, spectators and commentators for their own art practices.

Informal gallery spaces in Western Ukraine may be roughly classified in two major categories: 1. those being founded by artists on available territories and 2. the various premises (in particular residential) temporarily mapped as exhibition spaces. First examples of such practices belong to the late 1980s — early 1990s in Lviv where artist Yuriy Sokolov curated collective artistic happenings and exhibitions — initially in one of the stone buildings on Rynok Square and later in the cellar of the apartment house he lived in.

Almost 20 years later Yuriy Sokolov walked into the gallery “Efremova26” situated by coincidence wall-to-wall with his house on 24 Efremova Str. The gallery space in the abandoned villa was unexpectedly given to the artists of “Open Group” in early 2013 by unknown owners of the place, and in a similar manner taken away after 10 months of productive work. This was one the most established galleries in Lviv — with white walls, high ceilings and even a reception desk. While another space run by “Open Group” until today, “Detenpyla”, is quite the opposite. A semi-basement room in an old apartment building which was previously a forge and a laundry is now used as a kitchen by Yuriy Biley who resides in the room next door. Since 2011 this kitchen has also functioned as a gallery space exhibiting well-known and emerging artists ranging from renowned masters of Polish conceptualism to students of Lviv Art Academy.

Anton Varga, another artist of “Open Group”, practiced a similar effortless combination of life and project activity the winter of 2012/2013. During the 89 calendar days of winter he opened a new show every! single night in his modest kitchen, documented it and published online in a blog that registered this continuous flow of events.

The “seasonal” nature of programming is also inherent to the “Temporary Exhibition” project that takes place every three months on the first floor of the Artists’ Union studios building in Uzhhorod. Unlike spaces in Lviv, “Korydor” is not mentioned in any city guide and when asking citizens about the address, local artists might in jest object that it's not a gallery, but a corridor that leads to the studio of Palvo Pavlovych Kovach.

Another example of combination of private and exhibition spaces is “Tymutopiyapres” that occasionally welcomes visitors to the garage in the courtyard of Lubomyr Tymkiv's private house. It is in the heart of old Lviv cottage area where Tymkiv exhibits projects of his fellow artists, mail art, graphic art and zines by international artists, as well as makes videos for his own virtual projects.

These and other similar artist-run galleries exist beyond conventional art system regulations and obviously outside of art market interest. Each makes its own way, often unpredictable, while their future greatly depends on both external circumstances and personal whims. However, when researching in-deep, it is those galleries' collections of documents and artifacts — organized, chaotic, digitalized, ephemeral — that constitute the most interesting and unprejudiced sources of knowledge on the Western Ukrainian art scene. Moreover, this tradition of here-and-nowhere underground spaces produces a specific type of artistic thinking in the region. These practices are not about “making” complete projects or pieces — but are stretched in time and space, manifesting themselves in continuous observations, storing personal items, images and texts, or simply in a variety of routine everyday work which acquires a sense of an artistic programme. 


Odessa with its tradition of apartment exhibitions of the 1960-70s may be considered an exception to that. Yet the famous “kvartyrnyky” in Odessa were sporadic events and did not function as stable galleries which are a subject of discussion in this text. 



Petro Ryaska, Vibrations of Verkhovyna
Korydor gallery, Uzhgorod

"Vibrations of Verhovyna project is a vibration in Uzhgorod, Ivano-Frankivsk, or some other city, other time and space ... Conceived as an extension of the Idea that is Felt project shown in Detenpyla gallery, this spatial object adresses the possibility to experience a thought through color and found object that is the room itself. It provokes a particular emotional state associated with sense that has a though in its core."

Petro Ryaska

Anastasia Rudneva, Works from the personal show This is not that show. This is not a show
Lyubomyr Tymkiv garage gallery, Lviv
Anastasia Rudneva, Untitled. Cricket. Spring
appartment exhibition, 29.04.2013, Lviv
Antin Varga's project 89 Days of Winter, Lviv
Petro Ryaska, The Idea That is Felt
Detenpyla gallery, Lviv

An important aspect of the project is an artist’s intention to rethink his own long-term painting practice, an attempt to use color outside the picturial surface and to move his non-figurative experiments into the total spacial field. Together with following project Vibration of Verhovyny "in the" opinion ... " artist develops the idea of ​​working with the space-as-an-object.

Anton Varga, IO Imovirnist
information object, 27/10 Dzherelna Str., Lviv

89 Days of Winter is an exhibition that lasted all winter of 2012-2013 in the kitchen of Anton Varha's apartment on 27/10 Dzherelna Str. in Lviv. The display was changed daily, immediately documented and published on the project's blog


Artist's text on the project:


What for?


Exhibition activities sometimes contain a big danger, because they tear apart the time and space put together in creation, representing an extracted object. It can be this way or a different way.
The different variant is basically doomed to a kind of counter-cultural consumption and the correcponding existence.

So it is with hyperreflective art. Stories, myths, trends are composed in the context of the project that can be comprehended by only 5-10 people. The great part of it cannot be felt by a detached onlooker (out-of-the-context).

What was happening was conceived to practise the constant reflection, which would leave behind the artifacts of every day. That project was conceived primarily for those 5 -7 artists existing in the area as a challenge to their skill of contemplation, as a contradistinction to their exhibition practice of severance and inscribing. The space of the kitchen on Dzherelna str. (almost not special) was not a goal in itself. This was the place near in hand (the closest one). One must not forget about the ordinary function of the dialogue between the projects themselves, which in this object gained its sound due to the continuity of days.

It was everyday pseudo conceptualism. One day was chosen only to level the time of reflection, the time between the "act of creation" and going to the market. As the three universals (contemplation, reflection, communication) had to be not simply inconsistently lined by breaking a membrane between them, but in the space where they would cover each other by their contemporaneity and permanency of one day.


The Space.


The space of the information object was in the first place a rectangle of a kitchen. A sofa which was hardly moved since technically nobody expected large-scale artifacts, there was no place even for a fridge. There was just the wall which proved the implementation of experience. It was just receiving. At the beginning there was a blog created on the initiative of Denys Beketov and Marx that became the analogue of the virtual space on Dzherelna str.. The blog currently broadcasts all the 90 days simultaneously.


The Time Line.


One day. 24 hours. 89 days of winter. The last one was not shown. Basically the opening hours were 22-23 pm. There were some opening hours also after midnight. There were some in the morning. The end of winter was actually symbolic (calendarian).


And the last thing.


It all was obviously not for the sake of art but for the reflection of our place here and now every day, of our existence in that place, that winter, within those walls on Dzherelna str. and outside it, together with others and separately

Lubomyr Tymkiv, Tymutopiyapres
gallery, 19/1 Sadivnycha Str., Lviv

Located in the middle of a cottage area in Medova Pechera (Honey Cave) district, Tymkiv’s private garage opens its doors for art only when it’s warm. Each season the gallery hosts around 3-4 events, presenting projects of Tymkiv’s fellow artists as well as his own collection of international zines and mail art.

Yuriy Sokolov, For My Wife
mixed media

An archival album in which the artist assembled personal photos, documetation of his curatorila and artistic projects, texts, DIY-publications and other materials relevant to his conceptual practice. The album was a present to his wife on the occasion of their performative wedding in Switzerland. 

Yuriy Sokolov, Chervoni Rury
gallery, 24 Efremova Str., Lviv

As a logical successor of Decima Gallery this artist-run space occupied the cellar, the attic and the green backyard of the building Yuriy Sokolov has lived in. The gallery exhibited pioneering site-specific installations, performances and conceptual pieces of various Lviv-based artists as well as hosted occasional parties of informal artistic circles. Today the backyard decorated with the remains of Sokolov’s sculpture symposiums and Japanese stone garden has become an artifact in its own right. The attic serves as a storage for his rich but unstructured archive. While the bunker-like cellar fulfills its original purpose in keeping pickles.

Yuriy Sokolov: "We had such friends and such opportunities: this apartment itself, this cellar, this attic were an big part of my interests and life at large. It was not exhibition-making that was so important as getting together to have a drink, but not in the sense of boozing it up, but rather talk to each other, communicate, treat the guests... And the square meters allow you to receive people and need to be willing and kind enough to do it, but also you ought to have rave in some sublime sense. It's tusovka as a lifestyle and as a kind of practice."

Yuriy Sokolov, Millions of Flowers
action, Decima Gallery, Lviv

"Millions of Flowers" was an homage to Western conceptual and minimal art as well as to Russian actionism. As Hlib Vysheslavsky put it, "it was a minimalist conceptual statement - a reflection on the work of his collegues including actions by Avdey Ter-Oganian at Trehprudny Lane in Moscow and the activities of The Kitchen, New York. While his tools were pronouncedly minimal: elder flowers all over the floor and several machine-typed texts on the walls." 

gallery, 10 Rynok Square, Lviv

The entrance hall of the Museum of Etnography and Applied Art on Rynok Square in Lviv was offered to Yuriy Sokolov as a space to do contemporary art shows, which then was a relatively new practice in the city. According to the official press-release Decima gallery was founded in December 1993 as a public non-for-profit institution by a narrow circle of Lviv intelligentsia — culturologists, artists, architects, writers. The first exhibition was a group show "Searching for Whimsical Seduction" with 13 female artists form Lviv, Kyiv and Bern. According to Hlib Vysheslavsky's testimony, Decima programming had a highly conceptual character: "Mythoforms" by Stas Gorsky appealed to the problem of national identity through his work with remainings of iron mold of a Shevchenko monument; "Transit" by Yuriy Solomko evoked the felling of nostalgia through recreation of a 1950s living room in the gallery space; "Millions of Flowers" by Yuriy Sokolov aimed at establishing a direct relationship with the achivements of Western and Russian conceptualisms.

Despite its active programme and local popularity, the gallery was closed shortly after the opening due to disagreements with the premises’ owners. However, Yuriy Sokolov continued Decima's programming on his private territory later known as Chervony Rury gallery.