As Putin’s invasion of Ukraine rages on, artists, curators, and gallerists are scrambling to protect the country’s most valuable artworks.
Stained-glass windows, statues, and monuments are being covered with shrapnel-proof material. According to the BBC, bunkers are crammed with paintings, and some museum workers are sleeping next to pieces worth millions to safeguard them.
The director of the grand gallery explained to The Washington Post that if the heritage and history are to survive, all must go underground.
Civilian efforts to save art and history
While the eastern part of the country has taken the more brutal beating, cities like Lviv and Odesa have had more time. In Lviv, museums house bare walls.
Everyone who works at the Andrey Sheptytsky National Museum in Lviv has pitched in to help empty the museum. Ironically, Russian artists like Ilya Repin and Ivan Aivazovsky created some of the most valuable pieces the museum housed.
In Odesa, a 19th-century city with cobbled streets, volunteers stacked sandbags around the monument of the Duke of Richelieu, one of the city’s founders, according to Reuters. The Fine Arts Museum has been fenced with razor wire.
Kharkiv and Kyiv, two of the biggest cities, have already suffered devastating losses. The windows at the leading art museum at Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, have already been blown out. This has subjected 25,000 art pieces to freezing temperatures and snow, making it impossible to control the humidity and temperature.
According to Newsweek, the museum houses more than 250 Ukrainian and Russian artworks. The ballet theaters and opera houses have also been shelled.
In a town outside Kyiv, 25 art pieces by Maria Prymachenko, one of Ukraine’s most famous artists, burned as the museum that housed them was bombed.
Some pieces were saved as a man ran into the building to save as many as he could, according to The Times.