… let him speak now, or forever hold
his silence, let him explain obvious things—
how flames descend on lovers’ shoulders,
how despair, like a butcher, is scooping the world’s entrails
onto the morning cobblestones of a September city,
let him speak now, while it’s still possible
to at least save somebody, to at least help somebody . . .
Excerpt from a poem by Serhiy Zhadan, one of the best known contemporary Ukrainian-language poets, translated from the Ukrainian by Amelia Glaser and Yuliya Ilchuk via lithub.com
When Moissey Kogan was born in 1879, his birthplace, Orgejev, had been part of the Russian Empire since 1812, when it had been wrested by the Russians from the control of Ottoman-occupied northern Bessarabia. Kogan‘s parents were Lithuanians by birth, obliged like almost all Jews then living in the Russian Empire, to reside in the Pale of Settlement, which stretched north to south from today’s Belarus through Ukraine down to Moldova and west to east from Lithuania and Poland to western areas of the Russian Federation. The Pale was instigated by Catherine the Great in 1791 to assist in the colonisation by the Empire of territories bordering the Black Sea. By the time Kogan was murdered at Auschwitz, Orgejev had been in the possession of the Kingdom of Romania from the end of the First World War until 1940, when it was annexed by the USSR as part of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Despite this, Kogan‘s records at the transit camp of Drancy in February 1943 list him as a Romanian. Orgejev is now known as Orhei and is located in today’s Moldova.
Kogan received his early education in Chișinău (known in Russian as Kishinev), the capital city of today’s Moldova. He moved to Odesa, then as now a key port city, today located in Ukraine, to attend college to study chemistry. It is evident, however, that he was rather more drawn to the circle of students attending the Academy of Fine Arts there. Also key to his development as an artist were the collections of the Odesa Fine Arts Museum, which had opened in late 1898. Kogan was particularly fascinated by the cross-fertilisation of the Scythian, Thracian and Ancient Greek cultures, all of which had once held sway around the Black Sea. He saw himself, it is claimed, as the Last of the Greeks, notably drawing inspiration from Thracian black-figure vessels and certain forms of Ancient Greek statuary, amongst many other sources.
You will doubtless have seen the efforts the Ukrainian people are having to go to to try and protect their cultural heritage and institutions in the face of the vicious onslaught by Putin’s Russia. Whilst assistance and aid to the brave people of Ukraine and their safety and well-being must be our primary focus, the Moissey Kogan Catalogue Raisonné of Sculpture & Prints believes that as lovers of the arts and as those who work within the arts, our responsibility is also to assist the keepers of Ukrainian heritage in whatever way we can.
For this reason, we would like to draw your attention to a number of international initiatives which aim to support Ukrainian museums and living Ukrainian artists at this most dreadful time.
- The Center to Rescue Ukraine’s Cultural Heritage has been launched in Lviv, Ukraine. The Center appeals to international organisations, museums, and cultural institutions for help with essential equipment and materials, which are being collected at the Science Library building, Lviv Polytechnic National University for further distribution to where it is most needed. You can read more about this initiative on the ICON (Institute of Conservation) website, where you will also find details of how to donate and how to contact those involved. Here also is the Facebook page for the Center to Rescue Ukraine’s Cultural Heritage.
- To deal with the consequences of the Russian invasion and threats the war poses on the Ukrainian art community – (MOCA) Museum of Contemporary Art NGO, in partnership with Zaborona, The Naked Room and Mystetskyi Arsenal have established the Ukrainian Emergency Art Fund. The Fund aims to facilitate, support and administer donations offered by international artistic and charity organisations, as well as private donors; to provide support for cultural actors within different sectors (independent artists, curators, arts managers, researchers, writers, and so on) and cultural NGOs in Ukraine; to provide the opportunity to live and work for cultural workers, who have decided to stay in Ukraine, in order to work to preserve the cultural heritage of their area (museums, private collections, architectural monuments); and to globally promote contemporary Ukrainian culture as a powerful instrument for protection of the values of democracy and freedom in the world. You can find out more about the Ukrainian Emergency Art Fund and how to donate here.
- CIMAM – the International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art – has provided a List of initiatives to Donate Funds and Materials in support of Ukraine, where you will find numerous ways to donate and assist.
- An informal group of international artists has come together to support the NGO Artists at Risk. Each artist has donated a print in an open edition. All proceeds from sales will go to help Artists at Risk facilitate emergency travel, shelter and financial support to help Ukrainian artists find safety. You can find out more about the print sale here. Prints include work by Nan Goldin, Pierre Huyghe, Matthew Barney, Julian Schnabel, Tacita Dean, Rosemarie Trockel and many others.
Featured image: Sandbags block a street in front of the National Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet building, Odesa, Ukraine, in preparation for a possible Russian offensive, Thursday, March 24, 2022 (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris) via apnews.com