By Nadia TYSIACHNA, The Day
"Den" ("Il Giorno" / "The Day"), 15 aprile 2008
On April 7 a photography exhibit called UNESCOITALIA opened at the Kyiv Sophia National Museum Complex, a collaborative effort on the part of the Italian
Institute of Culture in Ukraine, Italy’s Ministry for Culture and Heritage, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Italy. More than 40 Italian monuments of culture, part of the world’s heritage, are represented in the works of 14 photographers, who captured eternal Rome, a romantic Venetian lagoon, exquisite villas designed by the Vicenza architect Andrea Palladio, the spire-crowned cathedrals of Modena, and the multicolored center of Naples. The photographs show many familiar landscapes and interiors of palaces and churches, such as the Coliseum of Rome, the Pantheon, St. Peter’s Cathedral, and the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie with its famous fresco The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci.
(Italy tops UNESCO’s list of heritage sites.)
“Why did we decide to organize this kind of an educational exhibit?” Manuel Guido, an official at the Italian culture ministry, explained: “We did it primarily to attract the international community’s attention to our cultural heritage. After opening in Kyiv, the exhibit will go on a tour of the world’s major cities, first and foremost to those that have Italian cultural institutes.
We want to boost interest among our young people so that they will be educated on the basis of the finest creative and architectural examples of their national culture and feel that they are part of it. These photographs have already been exhibited at Rome’s National Library.
“This exhibit begins its worldwide tour in Ukraine,” said Nicola Franco Balloni, the director of the Italian Institute of Culture in Kyiv. “This is no accident.
The architecture of many Ukrainian cities and towns is vivid proof that your
country was an artistic laboratory and often the second homeland of many Italian architects since time immemorial. Most of the Renaissance- era and Baroque structures of 18th-century Lviv, which is on the UNESCO heritage list, were created thanks to the inspiring work of a group of Italian architects who lived and worked in Lviv (some of them were the city’s chief architects). They acquired local nicknames, for example, Petro the Italian, Petro Krasovsky, Petro Barbon, and Pavlo the Roman.
“I would also like to express the sincere hope that, thanks to the joint efforts of Ukrainian and Italian institutions, a few other outstanding monuments of our two nations’ common history and culture, such as the medieval Genoese castle in Sudak and St. Andrew’s Church in Kyiv, a gem of European Baroque designed by Bartolomeo Rastrelli, will be recognized as soon as possible by UNESCO as part of the world’s heritage.”
(The Kyiv-based publishing house Hrani-T is about to issue a photo-illustrated book entitled Secessionist Lviv, which is devoted to the unique buildings in this western Ukrainian city, dating to the turn of the 20th century. Last year Hrani-T Publishers issued a wonderful album entitled Ioann Georg Pinzel: Sculptures and Transformation.)
The Italian photography show, organized by the Italian Cultural Center, has once again confirmed that Ukrainians should learn to take care of their historical and cultural heritage. They should also stop presenting it in the Soviet way.
This is revealed everywhere, except for the exhibition halls at the Kyiv Sophia Complex, which should serve as an example of how to showcase our cultural treasures. It goes without saying that cloakroom attendants should not be chewing on sunflower seeds at their stations, and when visitors ask them in Ukrainian for directions to the exhibits, they should refrain from responding indifferently in Russian, “Go to the next floor.” The entire approach must be changed. Our history and culture should be presented ambitiously and brilliantly.
Maria LEVYTSKA, chief set designer, National Opera of Ukraine:
“It is very interesting to look at these photos. Last summer I traveled to a few cities in Italy. I was just standing in front of the photograph of the Basilica of St. Francis and wondering about the angle from which it was taken because it is next to impossible to find this point: you have to walk a long way to reach it. We should also learn how to represent our culture in a dignified way. But in order to do this, you have to love it.”
Oleksandr BYSTRUSHKIN, head of the Main Service of Humanities Policy:
“Looking at the exhibit, I think that Italy is strikingly beautiful. But many visitors will talk about this. I would like to say that Ukrainians should also promote themselves abroad. It will take several centuries of statehood to understand that our identity is being formed now. It will never occur to anyone who walks in Rome’s ancient center that something will be reconstructed instead of being restored. There were so many financiers who could have rebuilt the Coliseum and turned it into an entertainment center. But they never even discussed this, unlike our businessmen who have zeroed in on Andriivsky Uzviz.
Obviously, each of us should develop an awareness and feeling of being a citizen of a state called Ukraine. Only then will it be said 50 years from now that Ukrainians love their history and culture and display them in a loving fashion.”
Nelia KUKOVALSKA, director general, St. Sophia of Kyiv National Museum Complex:
“This exhibit confirms that Italy can be compared to an open-air city-museum.
This year the Italians are going to add new monuments to the World Heritage List. We should learn this kind of love for our own culture and aspire to show it off to the world. Places like Kamianets-Podilsky, the old downtown quarter of Chernihiv, the Stone Grave, Chersonesus of Tauris, and the Sudak Fortress have been waiting for several years to be placed on the UNESCO list.
“Ukrainians and Italians are going to submit a joint nomination of all the fortresses of the Genoese period in Europe, including the famous one in Sudak.
Italy and Ukraine have endorsed this idea, while Turkey is still thinking it over. I think that our country should pursue a more active foreign cultural policy, although the domestic cultural policy is no less important. There are many ways to do this: establishing Ukrainian cultural and informational centers all over the world, inviting the foreign media to popularize our culture, organizing all kinds of exhibits, etc.”
The UNESCOITALIA show ends on May 14.