15.III.2019 – 13.V.2019

The Odesa Fine Arts Museum presents the exhibition project “Collection of Taras in an imaginary Museum” – pearls from the collection of Taras Maksymyuk, supplemented by works from the collection of Ukrainians of the Odesa Fine Arts Museum and private collections.

Among the highlights of the exhibition: are numerous graphic works by the master of Ukrainian modernism Mykhailo Zhuk (1883-1964), including his masterpiece – the monumental panel “White and Black”, little-known works by Maria Primachenko (1909-1997), and Rostislav Paletsky (1932-1978) and for the first time Alexander Grekhov’s “Quantum Leap of Shevchenko” series will be presented in Odesa.

The project was implemented with the financial support of Yevhen Lemberg and the restaurant Dizyngoff. General logistics partner of the museum Nova Poshta.

An inspiring collection

In the fall of 2018, Taras Maksymyuk, a well-known public figure, and collector of Ukrainian art addressed the Odesa Fine Arts Museum with a proposal to donate his Ukrainian collection to the museum.

The collection consists of several subdivisions-collections, which can add to the museum’s glory as a center of presentation and study of Ukrainian culture. These are the collection of works by the outstanding master Mykhailo Zhuk (1983–1964), the collection of works by the famous artist Ambrosiy Zhdaha (1855–1927), the collection of Shevchenkians associated with the Odesa region (paintings, graphics, sculptures, ceramics, printed materials, etc.), personal the fund of the famous Ukrainian public figure Yevhen Chichkalenko (1861–1929), the collection of Ukrainian publications (since 1834), the collection of illustrated postcards of Odesa and Ukraine, and other works of art and printed materials not included in the listed collections.

Throughout history, our institution has never received proposals of similar importance, neither in the number of storage units nor in the completeness and comprehensiveness of the proposed collections. Inclusion of this collection in the museum fund can significantly change the perception of the general public about the rich and interesting history of Ukrainian art in Odesa, give impetus to research of hitherto unexplored pages of art history of the southern region, and, as a result, increase cultural importance and tourist attraction.

The main significant obstacle to the transfer of the collection is the catastrophic lack of museum space. The museum was opened 120 years ago. At that time his collection numbered 700 exhibits. Today there are more than 10,000 of them, and the exhibition area has not increased by a single square meter. The lack of exhibition space, storage space, scientific and restoration work, and educational activities was already felt in the late 1980s. 

Now the situation has become critical. The enrichment of the museum’s collection with the collection of Maksymyuk entails the need to create a separate center of Ukrainians as a structural unit of the museum. The museum is unable to cope with this task without the goodwill and help of the Regional Council and the Odesa Regional State Administration.

The appearance of a separate cultural center of Ukrainians would allow the museum to create a center of Ukrainianness in Odesa and finally present a collection of textiles, Ukrainian icons and folk paintings, a collection of works by Maria Primachenko, porcelain, and earthenware, which due to lack of exhibition space In addition, the emergence of the center would allow organizing a repository for new revenues, which are currently artificially limited due to lack of space.

Unlike the imaginary museum of Andre Malraux, which requires no ceilings or walls, these collections lack the imagination of the viewer and his ability to remember. To talk about the content, about the ideas reflected, we need conditions for exposure and research. Today we dream of embodying the physical ability to share the wealth of many generations of artists and collectors. Using the term “imaginary museum” as a metaphor, we hope to physically cross the threshold of a new Ukrainian museum center shortly.

Taras Maksymyuk’s collection has several thousand items. Today we can only show a small fragment of it. However, the collection is the only one waiting for the opportunity to be preserved, restored, researched, as a result, presented to the public. The case for the small – for the physically unimaginable museum space.


(OCTOBER 2, 1883, KAKHOVKA – JUNE 7, 1964, Odesa)

He studied at the Kyiv School of Drawing Mykola Murashko (1896-1899), the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture (1899-1900; teachers Konstantin Korovin, Valentin Serov), and graduated from the Cracow Academy of Arts (1904; teachers Stanislav Wyspianski, Jan Stanislavski, Józef Megoffer). One of the founders of the Ukrainian Academy of Arts in Kyiv (1917). In Odesa: 1925–1932 – head of graphic and ceramic workshops of the Art Institute; teacher of drawing, graphics, and ceramics at the art school (1932–1955, intermittently).

Mykhailo Zhuk’s work is a rare example in Ukrainian culture in its diversity: painter, master of various graphic forms and decorative panels, decorative painting and artistic ceramics, outstanding ornamentalist, theater artist, master of book design, teacher, brilliant virtuoso of font compositions (poet, novelist, playwright, storyteller, translator). One of the first Ukrainian symbolists. Like other prominent figures in Ukrainian art, Mykhailo Zhuk was erased from art history for many years. The creative heritage of the artist was preserved by the efforts of private collectors, including Taras Maksymyuk.


The large (207 × 310) panel is made of mixed media on seven separate sheets of coarse paper and is a tetraptych focused on stained glass composition: its parts on paper are framed by a metal frame. The artist used gouache, charcoal, pastel, and watercolor. The presented panel is considered to be the largest work of all surviving monumental works by Mykhailo Zhuk.

Two angels, a white-winged and a black-winged one appeared on the panel that Mykhailo Zhuk created while living in Chernihiv. Zhuk’s students, young poet Pavlo Tychyna and Polina Konoval, his first love. Flowers around – a link to the garden of Mykhailo Kotsyubynsky, which gathered all the colors of Chernihiv’s literary life. It was in this garden that Zhuk, Tychyna, and the Konoval sisters met. At the same time, the Solar Clarinets, Tychyna’s most outstanding poetry, were written. For Polina’s sister, Inna, Tychyna dedicates her poem “Panna Inna”. Together they formed a kind of triangle – Inna was in love with Tychyna, Tychyna was in love with Polina, and Polina did not reciprocate. Tychyna dedicated the cycle “Funeral Songs” to her, which the poet himself considered lost. Poems were found only in the early 1990s in Odesa, in the archives of the artist Mykhailo Zhuk.

The Rare Scale, Mykhailo Zhuk, was one of the first representatives of the new formation in Ukrainian literature. Until 1918 he mostly wrote prose. In 1918 he turned to fairy tales. In two years (1918-1920) he created more than thirty fairy tales. Initially, he wrote for his sons – the eldest Mykolka and the younger Yurko (George), he even engraved a book poem “Dreamers to the Malays”. It is believed that among his tales are political ones that highlight the writer’s attitude to power. From 1908 to 1928 he published 11 books of fairy tales and poems.

He wrote eight plays, not counting numerous children’s plays. The first play was created in 1910, and the last in 1925. The translations made by Alexander Blok, Leonid Andreev, Edmond Rostan, Juliusz Słowacki, and Oscar Wilde date back to about the same years. He worked on the design of not only his books but also developed fonts. In 1926, when his children’s play “Spring” was banned in Odesa, he had to give up literary work due to the inability to publish his works. The last book of the writer was published in 1928.

He left several memories of prominent figures of Ukrainian culture. The first memoirs of the teacher and friend Mykhailo Kotsyubynsky date back to 1913. And the last ones, about the school of Mykola Murashko and the history of the Academy of Arts, were written in 1952. During his life, he was never able to publish the book of prose he had dreamed of until the last years of his life. Recently, the Odesa Literary Museum published a collection of literary works by Mykhailo Zhuk, which brings back to us his legacy after many decades of oblivion.

The collection of the Odesa Fine Arts Museum includes more than a thousand works that in Soviet times were classified as “decorative and applied arts with a national character”. Among them are works by Maria Primachenko, Rostislav Paletsky, Anna Sobachka-Shostak, works by famous and unknown masters, clothes, towels, dishes, etc. Some of them were shown to the public from time to time, but due to lack of space, it is not always possible to exhibit them. Traditionally, works classified as “national”, in particular from the category of “Shevchenkians”, occupy their niche and do not cause much surprise or controversy.

But modernity makes its adjustments. The figure of Taras Shevchenko and the right of the contemporary artist to comprehend his work and personality are increasingly the subject of heated discussions and even serious conflicts, as happened, for example, with the series “Shevchenko’s Quantum Leap” by Alexander Grekhov. Exhibition projects that can present to the audience the true truth of works that have been forcibly locked up in storage for many years can bring Ukrainian themes back to Ukrainian themes in museum collections.