11 Mirrors Design Hotel

Stories of 11 Mirrors – Jerzy Jura Onuch (Part 2)

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Our unparalleled collection of personal stories from our guests keeps growing. 11 Mirrors Design Hotel is happy to welcome Jerzy Onuch, a Polish contemporary artist, renowned expert in cultural and public diplomacy, Counsellor of the Polish Embassy in Ukraine in 2005-2010, Director of the Centre for Contemporary Art in Kyiv in 1997-2005, former Director of the Polish Institute in Kyiv and New York, where he now lives.

We had a unique opportunity to talk with Mr Onuch as he recently visited Ukraine’s capital. Read the first part of the interview here.

11 Mirrors: Why do you support precisely Mystetsky Arsenal?

Mr Onuch: I believe it has a potential to be a powerful institution. It can evolve into a cultural hub to play the most important role in this part of the world. Mystetsky Arsenal has a giant site of 50,000 square metres that can be innovatively equipped and properly filled. This is not consumerism; this is an investment – coming from the State or partnership between the State and other sponsors – that will benefit the entire nation.

11 Mirrors: You no longer belong to any institution, right?

Mr Onuch: I have already finished my career as Director of the Polish Institute in New York. Over the past ten years, I, above all, was a cultural diplomat. Finally, I am an independent person. I am neither associated not limited with any institutions, and I am happy with it. My daughter and I own a consulting firm and I can exploit my vast cultural management experience both in the East and in the West, from Kyiv to New York. My daughter is a political science professor at the University of Manchester. She is an active member of the intellectual world community. Together we implement many exciting projects. For example, she was one of international experts who analysed and assessed how cultural projects like the Goethe Institute and the British Council were progressing in Ukraine. I also contributed to this initiative as I helped my daughter handle some Ukraine-related documents. I aim to get my projects connected to Ukraine, one way or another – either I fulfil them in Ukraine or cooperate with Ukrainians abroad.

11 Mirrors: In terms of art, how does Kyiv differ from New York, except for its scale? What is art personally to you?

Mr Onuch: I have seen too many pieces of bad art in New York, unlike anywhere else in the world. In New York, you can certainly encounter everything and anything. However, good things are always very few in number – only 2%.

Kyiv has its historical and cultural fundamentals on many levels. In terms of its organisation and construction, it does boast elements of a metropolis. When visiting Kyiv, you don’t feel like coming to a provincial town.

For me, real art is what makes me experience a catharsis leading to internal restoration and renewal. I am no longer interested in topics high on agenda, which are vital for young artists who are keen on something new and eager for change. Yet, the modern quickly becomes old-fashioned. The eternal values do resonate with me. After so many years of living in New York, I have only seen five exhibitions that really impressed me, and they are still on my mind. I consider myself very, very lucky. Because good things are very few in number, indeed.

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