17 February 2022

Q&A: Hlebzawod [Kyiv]

Kathryn Zazenski, Yevhen Valiuk, Amina Ahmed

Hlebzawod — is an artist-run space in Kyiv, founded in 2016 by artists Yevhen Valiuk, Anastasia Didenko, and Eugen Stein. At that moment the space was based in a former factory, from which the initiative partially borrowed its name. The main theme that Hlebzawod critiques is Soviet heritage in its full range, from its history, culture, and architecture to politics, memory, and mentality. The sphere of self-organisation also includes a self-reflective irony and criticism, institutional critique and critique of various established artistic processes, research, and collaboration with initiatives and institutions that do not formally belong to the territory of art.


Former Location, Kyrylivska Str. 65

Was it a good idea? 

There are examples of more or less successful initiatives from the 90s that give evidence of the victory of art over the system: when artists occupied the space and managed to redeem it over time. 

Nowadays it seems that it is the worst idea to be engaged in grassroots initiatives in Ukraine. But what else can we do? Otherwise, we would have  to pay the rent to some dude from the 90s who illegally took possession of the building.

Who/what has held you up? 

The protest against nepotism and platonic love in business relations. Also, well-established artistic processes; income from local creative organisations, and so many other points that we couldn’t name them all. .

Is there a limit?

 We have organised more than 40 events, some of them were so fascinating that many visitors hung around long after our scheduled hours. After those experiences it became clear to us that it is most likely necessary to maintain a distance from some art lovers and to define the gallery’s working hours. 

What do you need? 

We are a flexible institution. We are ready to listen to any, even experimental, offers of cooperation. Most of all we need artists with fully-formed projects, but fortunately this does not happen often.

What has been given and what do you take? 

I have always been very intrigued when someone sends you invitations to his exhibition across social media platforms, but at the same time, you have never seen him at any other events, especially at yours.

Is it sustainable? 

For an institution what is essential is the circle of artists with whom it collaborates, and it does not have to be too big.

What is the shape? 

We also collaborate with museums and organisations that do not belong to the art field, we are engaged in chamber expressions; we hold lectures, we are trying to form a library, we are developing our own cultural ways.

Does it fit? 

In more recent years of the gallery’s existence, the excessive attention, excess of suggestions and advice that are not just not suitable for us, but are simply unacceptable—speak for themselves. 

Future or Past?

We are interested in artists who work with traditional media, that is inherent to the culture of our country, but also in artists whose practice is based on research and education. The latter has the potential to produce something more substantial.


The existence of such kindred moments in our cultural identity is quite known, especially among “professional” artists. I have even heard about the conveyance by inheritance of artistry from father to son.

What do you measure? 

We are interested in maintaining a distance from the crusty art organisations and commercial art galleries which are in close territorial proximity to us.

Digital or physical?

It is difficult to say about any priorities in this case. But there was a situation when we used a projector for the exhibition and one of the visitors, who by the way is also an artist, said that it was a “very contemporary exhibition”. Well, there’s nothing more to add.

Why do you stay? 

 We are not interested in selling visual objects like art galleries, we are interested in being an alternative to this mode of experiencing art. 

Is it enough? 

The lack of artist-run spaces and grassroots initiatives in Ukraine really exists. But state cultural structures and municipal art centres compensate by operating with the same underground nature.   In this sense, everything seems to be quite harmonious.

Gennadiy Popesku Untitled

Vitalii Shupliak, The Bread Which is a Weapon or the Weapon Which is a Bread

Courtesy of Hlebzawod



See also