In an effort to raise awareness about art that has been destroyed or appropriated by Russia after it invaded Ukraine, the Ukrainian brand Oliz and the platform United24 have joined forces to release “the Stolen Art” collection.
United24 was launched by Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy in May 2022 to collect charitable donations in support of Ukraine. To date, more than $483 million has been raised by donors in 110 countries, according to United24’s coordinator Yaroslava Gres.
A capsule collection of shawls imprinted with art that was allegedly stolen is now being sold online.
Claiming that Russian forces have removed art collections from 40 museums since the onset of Russia’s full invasion of Ukraine last year, organizers noted that this is a centuries-old practice for the warring countries.
One of the three shawls depicts the mosaic “The Holy Great Martyr Demetrius of Thessalonica Mosaic” that was removed from St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery in Kyiv in 1937. At that time, Soviets destroyed the cathedral, and the following year the mosaic was taken to the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. Another shawl features a replica of Arkhyp Kuindzhi’s “Red Sunset.” Olinz representatives said, the original sketch was removed from Mariupol museum just before it was destroyed by a Russian air strike in spring 2022. They claimed that the work was among the 2,000 pieces of art that were stolen at that time. The third shawl highlights a portion of a painting by Polina Rayko that used to be featured in her former home, which was converted into a museum.
The plan is for proceeds from the sales of Oliz shawls to be transferred to United24 to rebuild five residential buildings in Kyiv. A total of 18 residential buildings in the capital city are being rebuilt with funds from United24.
In June of this year, Russian military forces struck Kakhovka heavily and the house museum was subsequently flooded, damaging the majority of the paintings. Oleshky continues to be occupied by Russian forces. There have been multiple reports of nearly 15,000 paintings being stolen from the Kherson Regional Art Museum.
Varying in size, the all-silk shawls retail from $68 to $341 and can be shipped worldwide excluding distribution in Russia and Belarus. There are also four other shawls depicting the work of other Ukrainian artists. Proceeds from those items will be donated to the Kherson Regional Art Museum. Last November, hundreds of the museum’s paintings were reportedly removed by Russian troops and were taken to Simferopol in Crimea.
Gres, who co-created the project, said that with each passing day “it is harder and harder to keep the world’s attention focused” on the war in Ukraine. Using fashion was a means to make the issue of looted art more widely discussed and accessible. This type of cultural diplomacy will be furthered by sending the scarves to United24 ambassadors to talk up the matter with the media and the public at large. The 24 ambassadors include Balenciaga’s art director Demna, film director Michel Hazanavicius, astronaut Scott Kelly, adventurer Bear Grylls, Virgin Atlantic’s Richard Branson, country singer Brad Paisley, chef José Andrés and Nobel laureate Paul Nurse, among others.
Gres’ co-creator on the project, Khrystyna Oliyarnyk of Oliz, said all production for the shawls is being done in Kyiv. All of the company’s designers are working remotely from Kremenchuk and from the U.S., where some relocated after the start of the war. Oliz said this year’s sales are better than 2021 sales due to support from customers all over the world. Noting that the company’s charitable collections support Ukrainian museums and artists, Oliyarnyk said, “We remember the cost of our ability to live and work in Kyiv.”