I remember perfectly well the first time I came to Gallery 36, which is in Andriivsky Uzviz in the house with the same number. It happened 15 or 16 years ago. “White with hoar-frost, December sped towards its end. The glitter of Christmas could already be felt in the snowbound streets” – when I recall that day, the lines by Mikhail Bulgakov, the famous inhabitant of this fairy street, occur to me. This is how I remember my first visit to the Gallery… Later I have been there many times: at exhibit openings, at celebrations and sorrowful events, sometimes when I was sick at heart I came to Gallery 36 for no reason… The artists, exhibited in the gallery changed: sometimes the habitues of the hospitable basement disappeared, some of them did it on their own initiative, some of them were “excluded from the house.” Sometimes it happened. As for the hosts, they have remained the same: the founder of Gallery 36 honored artist of Ukraine Oleksandr Mylovzorov and art critics: the muse of the gallery, its director Svitlana Chernoborodova, and Serhii Tarnavsky, “responsible for everything” as he jokes. Without them it is difficult to imagine this picturesque retreat where the works of modern artists peacefully coexist with kitsch postcards, a computer with a collection of typing machines of different times, old cameras, Soviet crystal, antique cups with broken handles and lots of other attractive trash. There a dim lamp is always lit under a hand-made abat-jour (which is my dream!) and a cup of perfect coffee is waiting for the guests… These three people know everything about the Gallery: they keep its secrets, cultivate its traditions, one of which is a yearly informal meeting of friends on December 6, on gallery’s birthday.
Before the holiday the art director of Gallery 36 Oleksandr Mylovzorov, Sasha or Petrovych, as his friends often call him, answered the questions of The Day.
Today in Kyiv there is a huge number of big and small art galleries. They open and close every year, it is difficult to even follow this “Brownian motion” in your environment. Gallery 36 is one of the veterans that has gone through the glory and thorns. Do you remember the first exhibit that started its history?
“Sure. It happened On December 6, 1995. That is why we celebrate its birthday on this December day. We opened with the exhibit of the graphic artist Anatolii Ponomarenko (unfortunately, he already passed away). I remember the second exhibit as well, although it was held 18 years ago. It was called ‘Mini-Art.’ The artists were supposed to present the works not bigger than 15 by 15 cm. In our small premises, my former workshop, we managed to display 350 works. They were seen, we were acknowledged and this is how the biography of Gallery 36 started.
“I feel as if it happened yesterday, but it was 18 years ago… By people’s standard the child has become adult. At this age I want to experiment, I even have thought of changing the name of the gallery. Sasha Gallery, for example, or U Dida [At Grandpa’s. – Ed.]. Petrovych is also possible…”
Petrovych will be associated with the famous restaurant. People will not understand you: the name Gallery 36 has become a brand with the years.
“Everybody tells me about it. But I want to change something so much! (Laughing.)”
Which popular artists have been exhibited in the gallery over these years?
“It is easier to say who have not! Volodia Redko, Kolia Zhuravel, Andrii Bludov, Yurii Savchenko (now residing in the US), Lviv-based Serhii Savchenko, Ihor Prokofiev, Iryna Ternavska, Boris Eghiazaryan, Liudmyla Bruievych, Misha Shchyhol living in the Czech Republic now. And many others... Today all of them are successful and known among the professionals and collectors.”
I am sorry, but it seems to me some of them have forgotten about Gallery 36. I saw very few of the people you just enumerated at the opening of Oleksandr Mylovzorov’s personal exhibit dedicated to his 75th birthday… Weren’t you offended?
“No, not at all! Many of these artists are much in demand, they are working abroad and come to Kyiv quite rarely. Thank God! I can only wish them success. This is life and we have to take it as it is. I am glad that Gallery 36 opened the new names and helped them establish in their profession.”
I think it is no secret that the time of changes we live in is not the best for the gallery business. You are an active artist. Except the abovementioned exhibit “The Roads” in the Museum of Russian Art last month you opened another exhibit (in my opinion, amazing, diverse, and nostalgic) called “My 1970s…” in your gallery. What makes you spend time, money, and nerves for the administrative work, maintenance of Gallery 36?
“Really, the gallery brings a lot of troubles. We do not have any investors or sponsors as some of my colleagues do. However, I cannot imagine my life without Gallery 36. It is not a business, it is a club (laughing) where nice people come and I can talk to them about the art, the situation in our country or drink a glass of vodka!”
Who is in this closest circle?
“The list is not very long, but it does not change with the years: architect and art critic Yulii Lifshyts, writer Andrii Kurkov, academician, professor anesthesiologist Valentyn Suslov, businessman Viktor Prykhodko, artist Volodymyr Radko (he has been with us since the first days of the gallery), biologists Zoia and Oleksandr Protasovs (their daughter has grown up over these years and has become an artist), film director Oleksii Kuzhelny, and a couple more people…”
By the way, as for Andrii Kurkov. Gallery 36 and its inhabitants have become the heroes of two his novels Don’t Be Afraid of Darkness and The President’s Last Love. I confess, I wanted to finish the interview with a quote from one of them but I could not find these books on the Internet. In a shop in Petrivka market there is a wide choice of Kurkov’s books, but except for the novels I needed! I think you bring luck to the author.
“It is a great idea. I should tell Andrii to make Gallery 36 his talisman.”
Unfortunately, I cannot finish our conversation on this positive note. I will quote the eternal writer Mikhail Bulgakov: “Great and terrible was the year of Our Lord…, of the Revolution the second” Due to the social networks I can see that famous Kyiv artists Boris Eghiazaryan, Temo Svirely and others actively participate in Euromaidan. Aren’t you afraid that the private holiday of Gallery 36 will not fit into their plans as the future of independent Ukraine is at stake?
“The life goes on and it has many aspects. My personal attitude to the protest movement is not so unambiguous as the one of my colleagues. However, it is a topic for a discussion that, I am sure, will happen at the birthday. Our friends will find at least one hour to come to Gallery 36 on December 6, to have a snack and some rest after an hours-long meeting on Maidan. This is what we gather for: to talk, argue, and prove our positions. I feel that the evening will not be boring!”