They say that after this museum, Lutsk will never be the same. Businessmen from Korsak family have made a museum of contemporary Ukrainian art in the walls of the abandoned factory. Five thousand square meters of uniqueness, more than 800 art objects in 12 halls. Expressive works by Kumanovskyi and Andiievska, sculptures of Petruk and Arhypenko, early Marchuk among the paintings of “underground academy” of Karl Zvirynskyi are only a fraction…
It exists for a little less than a year. However, when on social networks random and non-random guests after seeing it, say that there is no such thing in Ukraine, they do not exaggerate.
This way the regional center of Volhynia, which touristic visit card has always been an ancient Lubart’s Castle, received another attraction – a museum that grew from a home collection of Lutsk businessmen and former doctors.
…”I have 50 people from the Lviv Academy of Arts now, I have to take care of it, wait, if you don’t mind,” Lesia Korsak is worried.
While we’re waiting, there is some time for wandering around the museum. And you can walk here for hours. Outskirts of Lutsk. The place where industrial giants once were rattling. 10 years ago a businessman Viktor Korsak from Lutsk, suddenly began turning a territory of the abandoned factory into an entertainment center. That way the Adrenalin City has appeared. That was the first institution of its type in this city. Then there were others. It seemed that here this story of this space redevelopment can be closed. However, less than a year ago there was literally an explosion of Lutsk’s art life: Korsak family opened a huge museum of contemporary Ukrainian art. The production facilities of the old factory are now teaching… to reflect and appreciate creativity.
What a family is it? Viktor Korsak – Chairman of the Board of the Volwest Group. His father, the late Ivan Korsak was a well-known Volhynian journalist, newspaper editor, writer and initiator of the family business. Volwest Group is a supermarket chain, food production and a plethora of other things. Then, out of the blue – a museum!
“It all began from the fact that Kumanovskyi couldn’t fit in the house”
They name her the soul of this project. Lesia is the wife of businessman Viktor Korsak. Until recently, she was working in an ordinary city polyclinic. At the same time, for several years, she has been managing the gallery of arts in their entertainment center on the outskirts of Lutsk, and the entire museum later.
She says that they weren’t thinking for a long time on its name. Every word is important in it. “The Korsak Museum”, because it really grew out of the initiative of one family. “Modern Ukrainian art”, because there was simply no such thing in Ukraine.
It all began with a simple thing.
“Viktor loved the works of Lutsk artist Mykola Kumanovskyi very much. Family and friends knew that and very often gifted them to him,” says the wife of the businessman.
Later, a friend from Moscow, who is very good at art, came to them, saw a picture of Kumanovskyi in the office and wanted to have one too. So Korsak family decided to get acquainted with the artist. He lived in Lutsk. Several years ago, due to illness, he prematurely passed away.
“When he began to show us his work, we immediately bought eight paintings. Then we bought twenty more. Then Mykola called us and offered more. I think his paintings are underestimated. Those who understand these works, they know. We bought them from the author himself. These paintings are not for an interior, not domestic, they are for a museum. This art is hard for perception, you can’t meditate on it, it torments. Of course, back then there was no queue under the house of Kumanovskyi. Then he told us, “I also have some graphic that I didn’t want to sell and which I didn’t show.” Already at that time, he was ill and, probably, as an ingenious person, felt that when he will sell us works, they would be left in one hand,” recalls Lesia Korsak.
This way the Korsak family became the owner of a unique collection of Kumanovskyi. Now they have more than 300 of his works. All of them were just stored at home. One day it became clear that the others should see it. So Viktor proposed to set up an exhibition of the Lutsk artist in the empty premises of the former factory.
After the death of the artist relatives handed over some of his belongings to businessmen: for example, a machine with the help of which he printed his graphic, an easel with the last unfinished picture… At first, all this has formed the basis of the exposition in the gallery, and after the opening of the museum, it filled two halls. And Kumanovsky became its decoration.
“At first I was really afraid of his museum idea. We are doctors according to our degree”
Quite interesting that both Viktor and Lesia Korsak are doctors in the past. In the 90ies he was a promising surgeon at the Lutsk City Hospital. She was a therapist at a local polyclinic. They met each other in Ternopil Medical University. Subsequently, Viktor brought his wife, who is from Drohobych to Lutsk. Then he got a Ph.D. in medical sciences. The young family lived together with their parents in a three-room flat in Lutsk, all in all, there were 9 souls living there. The beginning of the 90ies, when doctors didn’t get their salaries… so, Viktor ventured to start a business.
Here is a well-known Volhynian story: in one of the districts Korsak family after a storm sold illiquid wood. More precisely, they didn’t sell it, they exchanged it for cardboard. Then the cardboard was exchanged for candies from the Lviv factory Svitoch. The first money was earned by selling Svitoch candies. And then the surgeon, who had a salary of 4 USD per month, had to leave medicine. He thought it was for a year. But that wasn’t the case. Now, Viktor is a doctor of economic sciences, a successful manager, one of the top Volhynian businessmen.
Lesia Korsak has recently left the Lutsk polyclinic, where she worked at the physiotherapy department. She resigned because the museum needs a motor.
“We’ve fallen in love with art when we began to earn and travel a lot. We started to go to Europe and visit museums. This is a revolution, when you see, as little kids are walking around unique museums, sometimes they even can’t get all of this. But they are walking next to the very high-quality art, they’re growing in it. …In the beginning, I was really afraid of his museum idea. We are doctors according to our degree. He is a surgeon, I am a therapist. But Victor convinced me that we would gather a team of like-minded people who would advise us what will be better. Although you say that I am a soul, I still believe that it is his merit. He is a businessman. And he is able to make bold decisions,” assures Lesia Korsak.
Subsequently, the family was fascinated by the work of another Lutsk artist of Odesa origin – Valentyn Kyrylkov. He’s already in his eighties. At Kyrylkov’s place, in rolls, on the closet and under the closet, unique watercolors were covered with dust. Korsak family was invited to look at them. They looked at them and bought, because “they understood that this heritage must be saved”. Currently, Kyrylkov’s work is a part of the permanent collection of The Korsak Museum.
So Kumanovskyi, Kyrylkov and the works of several Lutsk artists formed the first exhibition. And then, more and more…
Now as a common courtesy “VIPs” that arrive in Lutsk are visiting The Korsak Museum. And most of all, it’s a great pleasure that youth are flocking here. Despite the fact that many of them are going here only to get a new creative feed for their Instagram, according to Lesia Korsak’s words, “they are walking next to the very high-quality art,” that is, they grow up.
“Politicians can hardly save the country. Well, all that salvation begins from the inside. We can say that we’re Europe as much as you want. But our souls are not European yet. We must change from the inside. It seems to me that if a nation is brought up surrounded by the propper art, then we will change. It’s the same as Moses was wandering wih his people for 40 years in the desert in order for those who were slaves in their soul died. You can’t skip this process. You can speed it up with such steps as this museum,” the woman is convinced.
Tickets are cheap as hell. 30 hryvnias for adults, 15 for schoolchildren and students. Wednesday is a free day. It’s also crowded here At the same time, the museum has become a good location for workshops, social events, even photo shoots for an interview.
“You see these old scythes, in which the worms are swarming?”
I ask Lesia Korsak about her favorite places in the dazzling white walls of this place. She immediately brings me to the same Kumanovskyi.
“Look, here’s the nest. There is a bird in it. Pay attention to what it is made of. It’s made of knives. It made this nest out of what it had. You need to know how to read Kumanovskyi. This is the work “On the knives”. …Well, this is our Ukrainian land (approaches to another picture – aut.) wherever it’s stabbed there is blood. The souls of people are butterflies. Ther is the work “Old scythes”. You see these old scythes, in which the worms are swarming? Dead scythes. There is no one to use them. The lost generation… Thank God that in Lutsk it is considered prestigious to have something by Mykola Kumanovsky. Lutsk people like his cycle “On the waters” the most. I’ve seen works from this cycle in many homes,” Lesia says.
She says that the gem of Korsaks’ collection is a sculpture by Oleksandr Arkhypenko. Now there are many of his works in their private collection. In the museum, there is a picture of one of the most expensive contemporary artists Anatoly Kryvolap. There is Tiberius Silvashi. Mykola Kryvenko…
“All of them are contemporary legends,” she smiles.
Lviv and Kyiv halls, but one of the brightest is an exposition of works by Odesa school of Ukrainian modernism.
“Here we have Lyudmyla Yastreb and her work ‘Running Women’, to get it, we had to negotiate with her husband for quite a long time. His wife had died a long time ago, but it is still difficult for him to part with her works. I really like this work. Also, a picture by Dmytro Stetsko to give it to the museum was like losing my limb. It was hanging in my living room for a long time. I like this work more than any other,” the museum’s muse tells enthusiastically, moving from one hall to another.
Literally “yesterday” a bold project “The hermetic circle of Zvirynsky” was opened in the Korsak Museum. The works of Lviv artist Karlo Zvirynsky and students of his “underground academy”, created in the 1960ies, were shown in Lutsk. “In the arms of the USSR”, the teacher of the art academy, who was persecuted for disrespectful attitude to socialism, created an underground club. He invited talented students to his one-room apartment not only for a cup of tea: it was the place where paintings that did not fit into the framework of socialist realism were born. Their creativity was some kind of a slap to a totalitarian machine.
“In our country, people were brought up with socialism and saw only the cheerful milkmaids who were coming back from their work with buckets. Happy people love their party… This project – “The hermetic circle of Zvirynsky” shows that everything wasn’t this way. And this is for the first time. Shistdesiatnyky had no right to be exhibited. Andrey Sheptytsky National Museum in Lviv and the Lviv National Gallery of Art named after Voznytsky halped us very much to organize this event. Many works are available only in those museums. But they are rarely exhibited anywhere, so even Lviv residents haven’t seen all of them. Well, here they are gathered in one place,” says Lesia Korsak.
Karlo Zvirinsky did not have untalented students. These are 10 artists. Among those of them that are still living is Ivan Marchuk, who came to the opening of the project. In the framework of this exhibition in Lutsk, his early works were shown. It is a completely different Marchuk, not the one we’re accustomed to. Petro Hrytsyk, who lives in New York, also came to the opening.
They say that this museum should change Lutsk. It should teach young people to visit such places. It handles it.
“God, let my husband make money, so we could keep it because it costs a lot. It’s ridiculous when someone thinks that art can be profitable,” said Viktor Korsak’s wife.
She says that their biggest fear was that after turning the factory into creative space, people wouldn’t come here. They were often asked why they have started all this in Lutsk. They answered: they want to teach people to go to Lutsk. Moreover, they have an idea to make Lutsk a city of three museums. Together with other Places they’re developing a unique route: The Museum of Volyn Icon with its wonderful sacred art pieces, the Lutsk Art Museum, which preserves a collection of paintings from the Olyka Castle, which was collected by the Radziwiłł family, and the Korsak Museum of Contemporary Ukrainian Art, a fresh modern breath.
The most instagramable works in the Korsak Museum are “Big Ben” and “Black pearl” by Oleh Suslenko, about feminine and masculine virtues. Also, a huge black arrow that has its nose in the ground. Youth really like it. The work by Oleksii Furdiyaka “Up done”. For the author, it is rise and fall after the Maidan. He was cutting and assembling it right in these walls out of huge sheets of metal. In the future, Korsak family plans to exhibit this work at the entrance to the museum.
“For us, this down arrow means: the Korsak Museum is here, the revival of Ukraine begins here. Well, it’s normal that there are different interpretations, because modern art means to see something personal in every work, see and think,” Lesia Korsak smiles.
By Olena Livitska
Photo by Iryna Kabanova