The street-art festival Muralissimo was launched in Kiev in 2010, and since then a number of murals from international artists have been appearing all around the city. The facades of buildings have not been covered with anything of this kind since the ‘good old’ Soviet days; in fact, the notion of art in public spaces didn’t exist in Kiev at all. Everything we saw on the streets in the ’90s and ’00s was predominantly generated through commercial interventions, whether it was a straightforward billboard style advertising campaign or simply marketing propaganda.
The Ukrainian state was always keen to be present in the public landscape, albeit with an aesthetically weak and confused vision of a twenty-year-old political history. So, there was certainly a need for some more interesting artistic practice in public space, and when I heard that the city’s municipal gallery (the Lavra Gallery) wanted to stage a mural festival, I immediately wanted to be involved. At that point only Kiev’s infamous duo, Interesni Kazki, and I had any international experience in painting large scale murals, so the gallery were keen for us to participate. I created the title ‘Muralissimo’ by combining the words ‘mural’ and ‘bravissimo’ (‘well done’) and we began.
Using our contacts throughout Europe, we used specific criteria to select the right people to be involved. The idea was to represent street art which is etymologically connected with graffiti, and work with artists who had a strong ‘street’ background, ideally self-taught rather than academic or art school trained, and to capture the spirit of the street art scene before its worldwide commercialisation. What made us different from other mural projects in Europe is that we were not focused on recruiting ‘superstars’ or overhyped artists, the kind that simply reproduce the same images, like rock stars on a world tour churning out the hits to keep the fans happy.
Sometimes artists we invited to participate in Muralissimo hadn’t previously worked on such a huge scale so this was a great opportunity for a debut. Despite the excitement around the project we were also tied by the financial limitations of the festival and gallery who were operating on a very low budget. Most projects were supported via foreign institutions, like L’Institut Français and the Polish Institute, which paid directly for projects for their native artists (specifically French citizens Olivier 2Shy, Remed, 3TTMan and Poles Zbiok and M-City). Ultimately these limitations made it problematic to present a local scene and include Kiev based artists, even as they were becoming increasingly recognized in the West. In the wake of Interesni Kazki’s recent global success, other Kiev-based street artists now want in on the action. We hope Muralissimo will help facilitate this.
VOVA streets-of-warsaw1

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