Ukrainian Artworks Secretly Saved Hours Before Russian Missile Attack

Ukrainian Artworks Secretly Saved From Kyiv Just Hours Before a Russian Missile Attack, and Are Going on View in Spain.

Nov 24, 2022By Angela Davic, News, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and Analysis
Ukrainian atworks, Kyiv
The artworks arrived in Madrid’s Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza. Courtesy Museums for Ukraine.


Ukrainian artworks are safe now. Normally, it would take at least two years to plan and authorize a loan this large. But, for this one, it took only a few weeks. Even though not all artworks are transferred, most of them are. This includes 51 of 69. Everything occurred on November 15, just hours before the Russian missile attack.


Ukrainian Artworks – In the Eye of the Storm

Ukrainian artworks
The artworks arrived in Madrid’s Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza. Courtesy Museums for Ukraine.


51 Ukrainian avant-garde artwork exhibition, opens for viewing in Spain the following week. The performance will mark the beginning of what might be a run of mobility exhibitions. The final result is promoting the culture of Ukraine in the midst of the conflict.


The Show’s name is “In the Eye of the Storm: Modernism in Ukraine, 1900–1930s”. This show also represents the most thorough examination of Ukraine’s avant-garde movement. Madrid’s Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza is organizing the event. The initiative Museums for Ukraine also supports the show. The initiative consists of art-interested people, with their main goal to protect Ukrainian art heritage.


Artworks were loading onto Kunsttrans’s truck, which transported the artworks outside of Ukraine. Courtesy Museums for Ukraine.


The show starts on November 29. It also includes a greeting from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on video. The show features 26 artists’ creations. That includes Ukrainian modernism experts Vasyl Yermilov, Viktor Palmov, Oleksandr Bohomazov, and Anatol Petrytskyi.

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The public still did not see some of the chosen artworks. They show Ukraine’s avant-garde art movement in the early twentieth century. Also, they are exploring figurative art, futurism, and constructivism.


“Putin wants to control the nations’ narrative” – Museums For Ukraine Founder

Courtesy of Museums for Ukraine.


Secret convoy transported most of the artworks from the capital Kyiv. Just hours after, over 100 missiles fired towards Ukrainian cities, including Kyiv. Their targets were energy sources. This missile attack was one of the worst since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.


“The Kunsttrans trucks were packed in secrecy to safeguard the visual reference of the largest and most important export of Ukraine’s cultural heritage to have departed from the country, since the beginning of the war”, Thyssen-Bornemisza, founder of Museums for Ukraine, and a board member of the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, said in a statement.


Kunsttrans is the only company that took the risk and stayed in contact with the drivers throughout the risky journey, Thyssen-Bornemisza noted. “The convoy was 400 kilometers outside of the city when the worst of the bombing took place”, she recounted: “As the convoy approached the border, crossing at Rava-Rus’ka, a stray missile accidentally fell near the Polish village Przewodow, near the border to Ukraine”.


Kyiv cultural sites destroyed
Edit via Angela Davic


She added NATO was on high alert and Poland went into emergency sessions. The trucks were 50 kilometres from the missile’s landing area at that time. On November 20, the artworks arrived to Madrid, due in part to a personal intervention by Spain’s culture minister, Miguel Iceta.


According to data kept by the Ukrainian government, the war resulted in the destruction of more than 500 places of cultural significance.


“It is becoming clearer day by day that Putin’s war against Ukraine is not only about occupying territory, but is also about controlling the nation’s narrative”, Thyssen-Bornemisza said. The exhibition at Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza will run until April 2023, when it will travel to the Museum Ludwig in Cologne.

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By Angela DavicNews, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and AnalysisAngela is a journalism student at the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade and received a scholarship for continued education in Prague. She completed her internship at the daily newspaper DANAS and worked as an executive editor at Talas.