The Jurii Maniichuk Collection consists of more than 100 large-scale canvases representing the trends in realism and socialist realism in Soviet painting from the 1950s through the 1980s. All the pieces are by Soviet artists of various backgrounds (Ukrainian, Russian, Jewish, Tatar, etc.), who were based in what is today’s Ukraine. The painters include Mikhailo Weinstein, Tetiana Yablonska, Victor Puzirkov, Oleksi Shovkunenko, Viktor Shatalin, Zoia Lerman and others.

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Zoia Lerman. Night Duty. 1966.
Oil on canvas. (190 x 140 cm)

The paintings were collected in the 1990s—a time when this genre was quickly falling into indifference if not disrepute in its native, newly-independent country. Struggling to cope with complete upheaval in every facet of their lives and understandably eager to absorb the previously forbidden offerings of foreign lands, Ukrainians were anxious to move beyond these heroic images of the past. In the West meanwhile, socialist realism has tended to be dismissed as merely a totalitarian art form. In fact, until recently, few in the West have had broad exposure or much access to this genre.

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Serhii Grigoriev. Alosha, Portrait
of the Artist Oleksi Zakharchuk.

Oil on canvas. (96 x 75 cm)

The Maniichuk Collection was assembled to bring the art of this region to a broader audience and preserve it for future generations. There was a certain prescience in this exercise: dealers from Europe and North America are now frequent visitors to Kiev, seeking out extant examples of this genre in galleries and artist studios. Much of this growing interest can be ascribed to the high level of technical skill of the artists, who underwent long years of formal academic training, honing their craft in their teachers' studios. This interest reflects as well, of course, the accessibility and popular appeal of the works themselves. Realism is often a welcome respite from the increasingly strained conceptuality of contemporary Western art.

There is as well a far more pragmatic attraction to Soviet socialist realism: its investment value. Buyers are not awaiting the outcome of critical, scholarly debate. The firm consensus is that the unique political and historical circumstances that gave rise to these paintings will not be repeated, and eager collectors and speculators are snapping up pieces as they appear on the market.

The Maniichuk Collection provides a scholarly basis for objective and subjective study of this unique chapter in 20th century art. The book Realism and Socialist Realism in the Ukrainian Art of the Soviet Era (Kiev, LK Maker, 1998) documents the historic and artistic development of socialist realism and contains images and a description of the Maniichuk Collection.

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