A Journey of Art, Politics, and Life
Jurii Maniichuk, my late husband, collected Ukrainian paintings of the Soviet era while living and working in Kyiv in the 1990s. At that time, the newly independent country was undergoing tremendous political and economic change. The art world was no exception. Like many other state institutions, art museums reeled from financial pressures. Impoverished artists scrambled for paint and canvases, sometimes painting over earlier works. Suddenly, the official art of the Soviet period was discredited as mere propaganda. Museums and other organizations removed Soviet-era paintings from their walls and placed them in storage.
Worried that many examples of this period of Ukrainian and Soviet art history could simply perish, Maniichuk made it his mission to assemble a collection of museum-quality Ukrainian paintings of the Soviet era for study and enjoyment by future generations. Together with leading Ukrainian art specialists, he visited studios, art academies, palaces of culture, and museums in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, Kherson, Mykolaiv, Donetsk, and Sumy, acquiring works directly from artists or their families, or from art institutions. In the introduction to his book, Realism and Socialist Realism in Ukrainian Painting of the Soviet Era (Kyiv: LK Maker: 1998),, Maniichuk wrote: “The original impetus in the creation of the collection came with the realization that the eyes of our contemporaries have witnessed the change of epochs. In my opinion, the past epoch is most fully materialized in its art, which became a sphere of spiritual activity for the people.” (For more information on Maniichuk’s rationale for assembling the collection, see the introduction to his original website, published in 1999, click here).
Maniichuk brought his collection to the U.S. in 1999, hopeful that the paintings would quickly interest a museum or collector. In 2000, he and I met and married, and I joined his endeavor to find a home for the collection. But my husband did not live to realize his dream. While visiting Kyiv in December 2009, he unexpectedly died, sustaining a head injury in a mysterious fall. (I was working in New York City at the time.) His brutal end not only launched me into widowhood but onto my own journey to secure the collection’s future.
The search would take ten more years, with many stops along the way. Here are milestones:
– In September 2011, the Brooklyn Museum of Art included one painting from the collection, Two Ivans and Oksana (1964) by Viola Pushkarova, in its new Russian Modern installation of 13 paintings by leading Russian or Slavic artists over the centuries. The work stayed on display for an extraordinary five years. Curator of European Art: Richard Aste
– The Ukrainian Institute of America on Museum Mile in New York City hosted the collection’s inaugural exhibition of more than 40 paintings, Ukrainian Socialist Realism, in September-October 2012. A second major show, Faces of Ukraine, opened in June 2014 and ran through the summer. (To see a video tour of the exhibition, click here) Altogether, the institute accepted on loan and stored more than 60 paintings for eight years and exhibited about a dozen at a time in a revolving show on its fourth floor. Curators: Ukrainian Institute Art Director Walter Hoydysh and Art Historian Olena Martynyuk, Ph.D.
– In Naples, Florida, Gallery on Fifth (now EastWest Fine Art) mounted an exhibition of 20 paintings from the collection in December 2013: Rescued from the Flames: Socialist Realist Paintings from the Soviet Union – from the Collection of Jurii Maniichuk and Rose Brady. The gallery also hosted a joint show of paintings from the collection and works by Florida artists–We the People: Everyday Life in Post-War Soviet Union and Modern-Day Southwest Florida in November-December 2014. Curators: Olga and Leeza Arkhangelskaya
– In Fort Myers, Florida, the library of Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) exhibited 20 paintings in its show, Ukraine: The Maniichuk-Brady Collection of Socialist Realist Art in August-December 2015. For the next four years, the FGCU Library stored the works and made them available for students and professors–thus temporarily fulfilling my husband’s wish that the collection be studied and enjoyed. Curator: FGCU Digital Librarian and Associate Director Melissa Minds VandeBurgt
– In June 2018, Shapiro Auctions in New York City sold seven works from the collection to buyers in Europe and the U.S. Founder and Owner: Gene Shapiro
– From 2011-2019, painting conservator Carolyn Tomkiewicz and art handler Travis Molkenbur oversaw the care of the collection in New York. Conservator Viviana Dominguez cared for the 20 paintings in Florida.
All the exhibitions and the sale raised the profile of the collection. But I still faced the challenge of finding a permanent home or homes for the remaining paintings. In late 2018, I contacted Edward Kasinec, Curator Emeritus of the Slavic and East European Collections of the New York Public Library and Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution. After agreeing to serve as my art consultant, he advised me to offer the works as a gift to a prominent museum.
With Kasinec’s invaluable help and introductions, I reached out to three museums: the Georgia Museum of Art of University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia; The Museum of Russian Art in Minneapolis, Minnesota; and the Mead Art Museum of Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts. All three museums accepted works. So, in November 2019, I gifted six paintings to the Georgia Museum of Art. In December 2019 and again in January and September 2020, I donated a total of 111 paintings to The Museum of Russian Art, which already held a large collection of Socialist Realist art from Russia. And in September 2020, I gifted 11 paintings to the Mead Art Museum of Amherst College. In 2022, I also donated the Jurii Maniichuk and Rose Brady Papers about the collection to the Georgia Museum.
TMORA opened its inaugural exhibition of the Jurii Maniichuk and Rose Brady Collection–Leaders and the Masses: Mega Paintings from Soviet Ukraine on June 29, 2020, and the paintings stayed up until February 7, 2021.The show featured 37 of the largest paintings in the collection, including the massive Anthem of People’s Love (1950-1951) by Oleksei Shovkunenko, Platon Biletsky and Igor Reznik. The painting, which is almost 12 feet high by 20 feet long, depicts Communist Party leaders in the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow applauding Stalin on his 70th birthday. The work had never been shown outside of Ukraine. The museum’s chief curator, Maria Zavialova, conducted several virtual tours of the exhibition. Subsequently, TMORA also exhibited several paintings from the collection in its permanent gallery and in its 20th anniversary exhibition, which opened in August 2022.
In October 2020, the Georgia Museum of Art also installed five of the six paintings I had gifted in the museum. In February 2021, curator Asen Kirin conducted an online interview with me about the collection.
So now, 128 paintings of the Jurii Maniichuk and Rose Brady Collection may be viewed and studied at three strategically located art institutions in the U.S. I am happy that, with the help of many others, I finally have settled the Maniichuk-Brady Collection’s fate.
— Rose Brady, journalist, author, and donor of the Jurii Maniichuk and Rose Brady Collection of Soviet Ukrainian Art
TMORA Virtual Tours
Leaders and the Masses: Mega Paintings from Soviet Ukraine: September 29, 2020