The Ukranian Museum in New York City was founded in 1976 and is currently the largest museum in the United States devoted to showcasing the history, art, and culture of Ukraine. Currently the museum is at a location in East Village that was established in 2005 and designed by Ukrainian American architect George Sawicki. The art collection consists of over 8,000 objects ranging from textiles such as wedding and festival clothing, ceramics, metalwork, and even Ukranian Easter eggs known as pysanky. It also features paintings from a broad range of artists including Vasyl Hryhorovych Krychevsky, Alexander Archipenko, Alexis Gritchenko, and many others. Perhaps its most celebrated and enigmatic artist is Nikifor, who was unable to speak for most of his life because his tongue was attached to his palate, and was assumed to be disabled. He lived in poverty and his artwork was mostly unknown until an exhibition late in his life. The Ukranian Museum also features an enormous archive of photographs, memorabilia, and documents, and hosts events teaching guests subjects ranging from baking traditional foods to embroidery and craftmaking.
On my trip to the Ukranian Museum, I found it to be an informative and well-curated collection that helps visitors understand and appreciate the rich history of the country. The pysanky in particular are quite beautiful, and a thoughtful information panel gives background on how their significance evolved from their origin as magical objects created in secret by women to bring protection, fertility, and wealth to folk art. One would be mistaken to only give them a cursory glance without fully appreciating the talent and work that went into creating them. The clothing on display is paradoxically both simple and intricate also; many of the shirts and dresses are white, hand-woven linens with floral patterns that feature impressive embroidery. I visited the museum with my wife, who immigrated to the United States from Ukraine with her mother when she was a baby, and we found that the displays gave us both a greater understanding of Ukranian customs, and also her mother’s tastes in clothing, painting, and décor. We also enjoyed the gift shop, which offered clothing, books, and (of course) pysanky for visitors to purchase.
Given the current context of the Russian genocide in Ukraine and the deliberate destruction of the country’s cultural and historical artifacts, the significance of the museum can’t be understated. Ukraine is its own country with its own rich legacy and history, and the preservation and celebration of that independence is more important than ever. After all, supporting Ukraine’s efforts to resist Russia’s assault is critical, but taking the time to understand the identity of the country and its people gives one a better comprehension of what is at stake and why it matters so much. Museum hours are Wednesday through Sunday from 11:30 AM – 5:00 PM with some exceptions, and full price admission for adults is only $8. More information is available on the museum website. It’s well worth the visit.
Matthew Christopher NY New York Jul 05, 2022 Museums Places to Visit Reviews