The Mystetskyi Arsenal

The general director of Mystetskyi Arsenal (Art Arsenal) in Kiev, Ukraine, has caused an outcry by painting over a mural the museum had commissioned. (The Mystetskyi Arsenal)

A museum director in Kiev, Ukraine, has painted over a mural she commissioned from artist Volodymyr Kuznetsov. 

Natalia Zabolotna, general director of the Ukraine’s Mystetskyi Arsenal (“Art Arsenal”), used black paint to cover Kuznetsov’s “Koliivschina: Judgment Day,” which shows priests, judges and other figures burning in a vat of fiery red liquid, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Zabolotna  had commissioned the artwork for a 1,000-piece exhibition, “Great and Grand,” meant to celebrate Ukrainian heritage. The mural was painted over on July 25, the night before the exhibit opened.

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Zabolotna told the Ukrainian news Website Levy Bereg (“Left Bank”) that the exhibition was meant to "inspire pride in the state" and that the mural violated the terms she’d laid out for the artist. She said it was “a provocation against visitors to the exhibition.”

The move recalls the controversial 2010 MOCA-Blu incident in Los Angeles, when L.A.’s Museum of Contemporary Art director Jeffrey Deitch ordered a mural that he had commissioned from the Italian street artist Blu to be whitewashed. Deitch, who recently submitted his resignation, said at the time that the antiwar mural on the outside of the Geffen Contemporary was insensitive to the neighborhood, which includes both the Veterans' Affairs building and a memorial to Japanese American soldiers.

Blu called Deitch’s actions censorship and protests were held by local street artists.

The artist who made the Kiev mural, Kuznetsov, told the radio service that "No one has the right to destroy somebody's work, especially to do this without permission. Perhaps there is a hierarchy at Arsenal and it is against such a hierarchy -- state and religious -- that my work is directed."

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The Kiev-based group Art Workers’ Self-Defense Initiative has called Zabolotna’s actions censorship and vandalism. On Thursday it posted an “Open Letter…to the Ukrainian and International Art Community” calling for a boycott of the Art Arsenal and affiliated organizations.

“I don’t regret what I did,” Zabolotna told Levy Bereg. She said she was “speaking out against the impudence of certain artists.”

The Mystetskyi Arsenal’s deputy director, Oleksandr Soloviev, has quit over the incident.

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