March 8 — The Kharkiv Art Museum under assault

The Russian bombardment has damaged the Kharkiv Art Museum. Most of the building’s windows are now broken. The museum’s collection hasn’t been removed to safe storage, presumably because of the absence of resources. So far, according to the latest reports, damage to the artwork has been limited, but there are obvious concerns about exposure to the weather.

At the moment, the museum is seeking volunteers to help secure the broken windows with plywood and plastic. Uncontrolled humidity is the enemy of any museum collection. Curators and volunteers are frantically packing up the exhibition halls and removing art to other buildings.

The Kharkiv Art Museum was established in 1905. It was heavily damaged during the Nazi occupation, when a substantial part of the collection was destroyed. Today the collection includes around 25,000 works of mostly Russian and Ukrainian art. Among the highlights are eleven canvases by Ilya Repin (1844 – 1930), a famous Russian painter. The museum houses the largest collection of Repin’s works in Ukraine.

Perhaps the most important work in the museum by this artist is a version of his famous painting “Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossaks” (1880-1891).

“Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossaks” This is the second version of the painting from 1893.

Ilya Repin was born in the city of Chuhuiv, which is not far from Kharkiv. On February 24, Repin’s birthplace was targeted by Russian missiles.

So far, seemingly unaware of the irony, Russian forces have demonstrated great efficiency in the destruction of sites and buildings connected to their own cultural heritage.