We were born to make Kafka a reality. Vaghrich Bakhchanyan


We were born to make Kafka a reality. Vaghrich Bakhchanyan


On 12 April 2019, the Kharkiv Municipal Gallery will present a retrospective project by Vahrich Bakhchanyan (1938-2009) at the Museum of Odesa Modern Art.

This is the second solo exhibition in Ukraine, part of the movement to “return” Vahrich home. For a long time, Bakhchanyan was known mainly abroad, so it is important to show his works to the Ukrainian audience, putting him in the context of our contemporary art. Many people actually know Bakhchanyan and regularly quote him, even if they think they don’t: “We were born to make Kafka come true”, “The wallet is the weapon of the proletariat”, “By all truths and lies, live not by lies”, “All power to sonnets”, “Beat the idle – save Russia!”

Bakhchanyan was born in Kharkiv and studied at the Kharkiv Studio of Decorative Arts of Oleksii Shcheglov. In 1965, he initiated the first unauthorised exhibition in the USSR (in a courtyard on Sumy Street). He was labelled a formalist at a factory meeting and fired from his position as a designer. He was friends with the writers Yurii Miloslavskyi and Eduard Savenko, to whom he coined the pseudonym Limonov.

Since 1967, he lived in Moscow, worked for the liberal Literaturnaya Gazeta, in the legendary Twelve Chairs satirists’ club on page 16 of the newspaper; he was published in the magazines Yunost, Knowledge is Power, and Soviet Screen. He held a one-day solo exhibition at the Blue Bird Cafe, where the leaders of unofficial Moscow art also exhibited: Kabakov, Bulatov, Komar and Melamid.

In 1974, Bakhchanyan emigrated to the US.

All this time in Ukraine, Bakhchanyan’s name and work have been virtually forgotten.
In 2016, the Kharkiv Municipal Gallery presented a restoration project to mark its 20th anniversary: “Vahrich Bakhchanyan – Artist of the Word” – the first official exhibition of the author in his “small homeland”.

Since then, his works have been shown in several major projects: “Song of the Petrel. A Short Course” (V Odesa Biennale of Contemporary Art, 2017); “City HA. Kharkiv Avant-Garde” (Kyiv, National Art Museum, 2017-2018); cultural forum “SlobodaKult” (Uzhhorod, 2018).

On the 10th anniversary of the artist’s death, the project at the MoMA will be the largest and most extensive show of Vahrych Bakhchanyan’s works in Ukraine.

It is very important to show Vahrych in Odesa, the city of Ukrainian conceptualism, close to Bakhchanyan’s style; a city that understands a sharp joke and a good pun. The new project, based on the principle of collage – the author’s main creative and stylistic technique – will include visual and textual works by Bakhchanyan, his plays, books, magazine and newspaper illustrations, audio and video recordings.

“The last futurist”, avant-garde, formalist, non-conformist, social artist, word artist, one of the founders of Soviet conceptualism and mail art, winner of international caricature competitions, connoisseur of the Western and domestic avant-garde, creator of the creative method of SOSrealism, “the main mocker of the Soviet Union”, apprentice locksmith and decorator of the red corner at the Porshen plant. All this has been said and written about one man – Vahrich Bakhchanyan.

The artist “took on the role of a satirical commentator of the era. Whether it is a collage or an aphorism, a poster or a pun, everything serves as a means of total parody of the surrounding reality” (Petro Vail, Alexander Genis).

The wit of Soviet unofficial art, Bach was born in Kharkiv, moved to Moscow and spent the last 35 years of his life in New York, becoming “one of the three American idols in exile, along with Joseph Brodsky and Sergei Dovlatov”
(Alexander Genis).


We thank the following  partners for their assistance in the preparation of the exhibition:

Irina Bakhchanian, Tatiana Bakhmet, Larysa Olenina, VOVATANYA Gallery,
Volodymyr Salenkov, Olena Hryhorieva.
All works, photos and archival materials are from the collection of Vahrych and Iryna Bakhchanyan.
Project curator: Tatiana Tumasyan,
Curatorial team: Anastasia Khlestova, Anton Tkachenko, Ales Tomakh.
Architect of the exhibition: Anton Tkachenko.
Design: Olga Fedorova.

Opening of the exhibition on 12 April at 18.00

The opening will feature a performance by the band P.L.O.T.