Arsenale 2012

The Best of Times, The Worst of Times. Rebirth and Apocalypse in Contemporary Art.
17 May — 17 July 2012.

The Best of Times, The Worst of Times, the first in a series of Biennial exhibitions to be held in the newly converted Mystetskyi Arsenal in the historic centre of Kyiv, capital of the Ukraine, takes as its subject the cyclical nature of contemporary art and how this is related both to our lives today and to our continually changing perspectives on past and future.

Its title is derived from the opening lines of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, a novel about the French Revolution, which the writer pointed out could also refer to almost any other time or place. Since the beginning of time continuing cycles of birth, vitality, decline and death have accompanied the rise and fall of species, empires and cultures, often one providing the platform for the next. Yet recently something has changed. The previous prerogative for total destruction lay with either god or nature, whereas now nuclear holocaust, intended or not, has, with the rapid increase of global warming, invested humanity not only with the capacity of destroying itself but also all the natural systems that have supported it .

With knowledge comes responsibility. The work in this exhibition chosen from artists from many different countries, including those from the Ukraine and CIS States, will cast a critical eye on contemporary culture, confronting the worst often as a means of protecting and celebrating the best.

The exhibition will be organised around four hub ideas, none of which are mutually exclusive. The first, The Restless Spirit, looks at the ways in which we derive strength from beliefs, myths and conceptions of the universe that are not governed by material need; In the Name of Order examines how under the pretext of rationalism power attempts to dominate culture through the creation of self-serving hierarchies; Flesh takes the human body, its appetites, desires and limitations as its central theme. The Unquiet Dream, the final section of the exhibition, focuses on nightmares and premonitions of disaster, without which we are unable to change.

The main project will be organised around four hub ideas and will occupy the first and second floors of Mystetskyi Arsenal with the total exhibition area of ​​20,000 square meters.

There are many biennials in the world, but only few of them are focused on the museum space, like the Tate Triennial (Tate Gallery, UK) and the Whitney Biennial (the Whitney Museum of American Art, USA). Ukraine will be the next country with a similar format biennale. ARSENALE will also present a special parallel program in a variety of cultural institutions, galleries and public space of Kyiv.

ARSENALE 2012 will be curated by David Elliott (UK). David Elliott curated the 17th International Biennale of Sydney (THE BEAUTY OF DISTANCE: Songs of Survival in a Precarious Age, 2008-2010); he established and headed the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo; he was the director and curator of Moderna Museeet in Stockholm and Istanbul Modern museum.

Read more about Kyiv Biennial