In early April, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made a surprise appearance via screen at the Grammy Awards. In a similar fashion, an urgent message from Zelensky aired at the Venice Biennale, reported ArtNet News.
Streamed from the Ukrainian Collateral Event site on the opening of the “This is Ukraine: Defending Freedom” exhibition, Zelensky warned spectators of the consequences of a Russian victory on the arts.
“There are no tyrannies that would not try to limit art because they can see the power of art.” Zelensky said in the video. “Art can tell the world things that cannot be shared otherwise.”
Zelensky urged the art community and international leaders to support Ukraine. “If the entire democratic world has been built on the idea of freedom, then why do you often feel alone in defending freedom?” Zelensky said. “If freedom is a universal value, then why do other nations who fight for freedom never get equal support? What is it that separates us from each other at crucial moments? Politicians will not answer that. There are no experts who can explain this and put it right. One will not find the answers in media either. Because this is about something beyond words.”
Zelensky was not alone in his address. The President of the Venice Biennale, Roberto Cicutto, the Mayor of Venice, Luigi Brugnaro, NFT artist Beeple, and the Ukrainian steel-manufacturer Victor Pinchuk spoke as well.
Pinchuk introduced Zelensky with a clip from a Ukrainian woman hiding in a bunker, calling on world leaders to help her nation. Pinchuk said that the woman had since died. However, there were some notes of hope, Pinchuk also mentioned that Mayor Brugnaro had recently invited refugees into his home.
The “This is Ukraine: Defending Freedom” exhibition, which was set up at the last minute following the news of the Russian invasion, is a large display of works by Ukrainian artists Yevgenia Belorusets, Nikita Kadan, Lesia Khomenko, Maria Priymachenko, Tetyana Yablonska, and Stefan Medytsky. Zelensky himself also submitted a work. It features a Ukrainian flag with the following quote: “We are defending our freedom.”