I first got to the “Gallery 36” birthday when it was two or three years old. At the time I was the host of the “Name” program on TET TV channel; the day before, on house concert at Andrii Kurkov, about whom I was preparing a program, I had met with Oleksandr Milovzorov, honored artist of Ukraine and artistic director of the gallery, and Svitlana Chernoborodova, its director and art historian. The third member of their little but able team was my old friend, art critic Serhii Ternavsky, with whom we had not met for many years. They invited me to their celebration.
Over the years, “Gallery 36” experienced both the rise to the glory and the fall from its peak. There were fertile times, reigned by easy money of the 1990s, when it seemed that society has changed forever – “new Ukrainians” became interested, timidly at first but soon very actively, not only in casinos and nightclubs, but also in buying of artworks. There were damned days when the gallery staff desperately fought for survival... “Gallery 36” went through fire and water with pride – and proved its right to be.
This year, the 20th anniversary of the gallery gathered a huge number of friends. There are artists who were considered beginners two decades ago and had their first solo exhibitions in the “Gallery 36.” There are their children and grandchildren, who literally grew up in the walls of Petrovych’s establishment (this is how Milovzorov is called by those who are close to him). The birthday greetings were told by critics and journalists, embassy staff and diplomats, collectors and clients. By deeply rooted gallery tradition, the jubilee evening was not glamorous and intoxicating, but rather cheerful and noisy – with political and cultural discussions, with memories and revelations that emerged in different parts of this small space. As it should be in a big family that seldom gets together. And strangers do not go here.
At the end of the evening I managed to distract Milovzorov from the endless queues of visitors and ask him some questions about the occasion which brought us all together that day at 36 Andriivsky Uzviz. ...
I am a little surprised that I saw at your anniversary almost none of the artists who had been the ‘Gallery 36’ regulars in the late 1990s, whose names became known after their solo exhibitions at your gallery? Isn’t it a shame?
“No, this is a usual process. Many artists, who began their careers in our gallery and became popular later, are now actively exhibited in Europe. The gallery could not and cannot provide them with such an opportunity; exhibitions abroad are an expensive business. But we always sincerely rejoice in the successes of our colleagues.
“In addition, in recent years the gallery policy has changed somewhat. We moved into the sphere of public diplomacy (as I call the process) – we are now offering our space not only to Ukrainians, but also to foreign artists. Among our guests have been painters, sculptors, and photographers from Latvia, the Czech Republic, Germany, and Croatia. There are plans for the future to continue this course, so that citizens of Kyiv should expect a lot of interesting surprises. This is the result of our close cooperation with attaches on culture of foreign embassies in Ukraine. Members of our team – me, Iryna and Vitalii Tarnavsky– are also exhibited abroad. So, this is how our entry into Europe is made and how Ukrainians discover artists from other countries.”
A Princeton PhD, was a US diplomat for over 20 years, mostly in Eastern Europe, and was promoted to the Senior Foreign Service in 1997. For the Open World Leadership Center, he speaks with
its delegates from Europe/Eurasia on the topic, "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United." Affiliated with Georgetown University for over ten years, he shares ideas with students about public diplomacy.
The papers of his deceased father -- poet and diplomat John L. Brown -- are stored at Georgetown University Special Collections at the Lauinger Library. They are manuscript materials valuable to scholars interested in post-WWII U.S.-European cultural relations.
This blog is dedicated to him, Dr. John L. Brown, a remarkable linguist/humanist who wrote in the Foreign Service Journal (1964) -- years before "soft power" was ever coined -- that "The CAO [Cultural Affairs Officer] soon comes to realize that his job is really a form of love-making and that making love is never really successful unless both partners are participating."