Artworks rescued in Odessa are exhibited in Berlin

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Twelve paintings removed from the Art Museum for Western and Eastern Ukraine in Odessa are being exhibited in Berlin. The exhibition aims to raise awareness of the war as well as support the group of Ukrainian refugees living in Berlin.

Some had predicted the Russian attack. But for most people, the large-scale invasion on February 24, 2022 was a surprise.

The same was true for state museums who were suddenly faced with a difficult decision about what to do with all the priceless works of art.

Most of them came to the same conclusion as the Odesa Art Museum that the most valuable works should be removed and stored in containers or bunkers. All this to protect them from the Russian attack. Now 12 of the paintings removed from the Museum are exhibited in the "Gemäldegalerie" gallery in the German capital, Berlin.

"Cultural assets are being actively attacked and destroyed because of the terrible war. It is very important for us, for me, to contribute here. This is also because the exhibition is about raising awareness", said the director of "Gemäldegalerie", Dagmar Hirshfelder.

The exhibition presents 12 of the 74 paintings that have left the places where they were sheltered in Odessa during the last two years and were sent to Berlin.

"This is very important. First, because it is normal practice for museum works to be shown in other museums. It is normal and good practice", said Igor Poronyk, director of the Museum of Western and Eastern Art in Odessa.

"Secondly, it is important especially at this moment, because the paintings are under evacuation. They are stored in containers. Now the German gallery can work for the image of the state and attract attention with our collection of works", he said while also telling the history of the Museum.

The Museum of Western and Eastern Art in Odessa opened in 1923 and contains major works by Italian, Dutch, German and French masters. Most of the works of Ukrainian artists have been displayed in other museums. In July 2023, the museum building was damaged in a Russian attack.

Poronyk said that despite this, the Museum has played a very important role for the city since the outbreak of the war.

"First of all, the mission was expanded until the self-confidence of our country increased. The museum became a place where people could find some kind of relief. When there is war, culture becomes more important to humanity. Because war is misery, chaos and darkness. But culture is light and normality. It helps people to remain human in an inhumane situation," he said.

Over a million Ukrainians have traveled to Germany as refugees in the past two years, while more than a hundred thousand others currently live in Berlin.

Hirshfelder said the exhibit aims to give them back a little piece of home.

"It's about their cultural identity. It's about them too. We are sending the signal that we stand by them and support them", he said.