Saving Ukrainian art and helping artists, one NFT at a time

Lika Spivakovska closed her two art galleries in Kyiv, Ukraine, hours after Russia invaded her country, and feels helpless as she travels across Europe, seeking refuge with her two children. Artists stranded in Ukraine have been texting her all week, saying that their studio and home studio have been destroyed by attackers.

Explosions in eastern Ukraine damaged about 20 spaces reserved for artists, charred canvases, torn paintings and entire livelihoods lost, according to a text message sent to Ms. Spivakovska. . “I have no studio, no paint, no canvas and no works of my own,” lamented one artist in one message.

Ms Spivakovska, 38, who has championed emerging Ukrainian artists for almost a decade, said: “I feel so guilty, to put their work in one of her galleries, Spivakovska. Art: Ego, opened in 2014.

Now, she believes it is her responsibility to help them during the war.

She posted an appeal for help on Facebook in February, asking if someone could connect her with a familiar person. NFTaka an indelible token – a collectible digital item stamped with a unique piece of code that serves as a permanent record of its authenticity.

Many works of the artists were destroyed; but maybe, she thought, saved pictures of their puzzle pieces could be digitized into NFT. Maybe that will allow poor Ukrainian artists to sustain themselves financially through online auctions as the war drags on.

Eventually, a friend connected Spivakovska with Crystal Rose Pierce, founder of Lighthouse, an NFT art gallery in Puerto Rico.

“When I got the phone call from her, it was 4 a.m.,” Ms. Pierce said, “and I knew it was important.”

She told Ms. Spivakovska that Ukrainian art photographs, and photographs of paintings and drawings damaged by Russian attacks, could be minted into NFTs and be part of the session. performed at the Lighthouse Museum in San Juan.

Ms. Spivakovska, who also founded a popular theater and is the editor-in-chief of ARTNEWS.ONE, an online art publication, wanted to increase the program’s reach.

Artists and children still draw and paint in bomb shelters, often on iPads. Perhaps their artwork could also be sold as NFTs, she said, with all the money going directly to humanitarian efforts in Ukraine or to the artists and children’s families. provided artwork.

Ms. Pierce agreed, and just a day after speaking by phone, a March performance titled “Lighthouse for Ukraine” raised more than $30,000, with an NFT of the damaged painting. Partly damaged by Russian bombs, which sold for about $10,000. Ms. Spivakovska suggested that people send her more artworks so their countries could fully document the damage of war.

In two weeks, she received more than 450 works of art, mostly digital, that the Ukrainians had completed in the bomb shelter, and placed them on OpenSeaa marketplace for people to buy and sell NFTs. Some pieces depict the dark realities of war, such as bloody bodies and a nursing mother in a bomb shelter, while others express joy with yellow and blue flowers . Some even mocked Russian President Putin, claiming that he is a demon or horned snake-like creature.

One of the artists who contributed to the project, Marianna Gyshchak, 30, of Kyiv, said on WhatsApp on Wednesday that her painting “Fight for Freedom”, which has been transformed into NFT, is a “the cry from my heart is made in the hidden bomb.”

She will bundle up in layers to keep warm in the windowless shelter and place an iPad on her lap, coloring the blue and blonde hair of the woman in the center of her life, who is holding a trident. Silver color resembles the national emblem of Ukraine.

After it was sold, Ms. Spivakovska said, she tried to contact Ms. Gyshchak to share the good news but was unable to reach her. Ms. Gyshchak has been hiding in Irpin, a suburb of Kyiv that became one of the hardest-hit areas in March.

Ms. Spivakovska said at the time she recalls thinking: What if she was killed?

A few days later, she connected online with Ms. Gyshchak. When informed that someone had bought “Fight for Freedom”, Ms. Gyshchak told Ms. Spivakovska to donate all proceeds to the Ukrainian army.

“They are saving our lives, and I am so glad that my talent and art can help them,” she said. “This is the least I can do.”

Ms. Pierce, of the Lighthouse NFT gallery, said that the gallery is planning another NFT Ukrainian art show in May, and that all proceeds from the sale will go to artists or support. humanitarian.

“What happened is there was so much art coming in from the country that we can now do something bigger,” she said.

Some of the paintings are by children, who spent weeks sleeping in bomb shelters and spent a few days drawing on paper or electronic tablets.

A work by a 7-year-old showing a curved, bright rainbow surrounded by bombs painted in jumbled squares. Another photo is of a 3-year-old girl whose grandmother died in the war. The drawing is a memory of her, Ms. Pierce said.

Recently, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said about the power of art in a video address with artists and cultural leaders at the Venice Biennale in Italy.

“Art can tell the world something else that cannot be shared,” he said.

Ms. Spivakovska agrees with that sentiment and says she hopes that one day she will be able to return home to her galleries in Kyiv.

For two months now, Ukrainians feel out of control of their lives, she said. And for artists, she added, “all they can control is their talent.”

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