This is Ukraine: Defending Freedom is the new official collateral event by the PinchukArtCentre and Victor Pinchuk Foundation for the 59th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, at the Scuola Grande della Misericordia. Across two chapters, the exhibition reasserts Ukraine's cultural resilience that has always defined itself, even in the most challenging times, through its ability to think and create critically. Artists refuse direct war narratives and instead reflect deeply on their meaning, origin, and impact. This is Ukraine: Defending Freedom is about strength, it is about making, it is about friendship. But most of all, it is about our collective freedoms—the freedom to choose, the freedom to speak, and the freedom to exist.
The first chapter brings monumental and emotional works from three artists who continue to live and work in Ukraine during Russia's war in Ukraine alongside with Ukrainian historical masterpieces. The second chapter presents Ukrainian artists alongside international artist friends, they overview a deep connection to the country whilst forming a common front against the war. Their works respond to the urgent need for the global community to rally around Ukraine. These include Marina Abramović , Olafur Eliasson, JR, Damien Hirst, Boris Mikhailov, and Takashi Murakami.
For the occasion, JR has unveiled a 148-ft image of Valeriia, a 5-year-old Ukranian refugee, which was stretched and held up by volunteers at Riva Sette Martiri, in Venice. This is part of an ongoing project that aims to help and support refugees affected by the war. Valeriia's image will be presented again during the Biennale.