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Looking Up: The Giant Art Transforming Kyiv

  • Amos Chapple
Since the deadly Euromaidan protests of 2014, murals have been appearing on the streets of the Ukrainian capital. Many are politically charged pieces from locals. Some are large-scale epics by international artists. But all reflect the youthful energy and national spirit that is unique to today's Kyiv.

A mural by French artist Seth Globepainter. The mural sits on a quiet street directly above Kyiv's Independence Square, known as Maidan, where scores of people died during antigovernment unrest in 2014. 
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A mural by French artist Seth Globepainter. The mural sits on a quiet street directly above Kyiv's Independence Square, known as Maidan, where scores of people died during antigovernment unrest in 2014. 

At the opposite end of Maidan is "Protectress," by Costa Rican artist Mata Ruda. The mural depicts a Slavic goddess surrounded by sunflowers, the national flower of Ukraine. 
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At the opposite end of Maidan is "Protectress," by Costa Rican artist Mata Ruda. The mural depicts a Slavic goddess surrounded by sunflowers, the national flower of Ukraine. 

A portrait of Serhiy Nigoyan, the first person to be shot dead during the Euromaidan protests in 2014. The ethnic Armenian was struck down shortly before a police assault on protesters during the snowy morning of January 22. On seeing the portrait, Nigoyan's father said, "We are proud. Thank you to everyone who respects, participated, and strove in his memory."  
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A portrait of Serhiy Nigoyan, the first person to be shot dead during the Euromaidan protests in 2014. The ethnic Armenian was struck down shortly before a police assault on protesters during the snowy morning of January 22. On seeing the portrait, Nigoyan's father said, "We are proud. Thank you to everyone who respects, participated, and strove in his memory."

 

This mural of phoenixes rising with a human figure is by Ana Marietta. The Puerto Rican artist said of her time in Kyiv: "I was able to witness beauty in so many ways. The architecture, the beautiful people, their kindness.... I wanted to skip the language barrier...sending them a message of solidarity, of love."  
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This mural of phoenixes rising with a human figure is by Ana Marietta. The Puerto Rican artist said of her time in Kyiv: "I was able to witness beauty in so many ways. The architecture, the beautiful people, their kindness.... I wanted to skip the language barrier...sending them a message of solidarity, of love."
 

This kaleidoscopic cormorant, by artist Ernesto Maranje, is one of the first things visitors to Kyiv see; it faces the morning sun on the highway from the airport. 
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This kaleidoscopic cormorant, by artist Ernesto Maranje, is one of the first things visitors to Kyiv see; it faces the morning sun on the highway from the airport. 

Another of Maranje's distinctive pieces in central Kyiv. The Cuban-American artist says of his style: "I try to give to my pieces a lot of detail, because I enjoy finding something new every time.... I make the work, go back and see, 'Oh, I forget [I painted] a little flower there.'... Every time you see something new. I like that." 
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Another of Maranje's distinctive pieces in central Kyiv. The Cuban-American artist says of his style: "I try to give to my pieces a lot of detail, because I enjoy finding something new every time.... I make the work, go back and see, 'Oh, I forget [I painted] a little flower there.'... Every time you see something new. I like that." 

The River Crossing, by Australian artist Fintan Magee. The explosion of street art in Kyiv is partly a result of young locals like the Mural Social Club and Art United Us, who arrange for international artists to visit and work in Ukraine. 
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The River Crossing, by Australian artist Fintan Magee. The explosion of street art in Kyiv is partly a result of young locals like the Mural Social Club and Art United Us, who arrange for international artists to visit and work in Ukraine. 

Singing Girl, by Sasha Korban. The Ukrainian artist fled the war in Ukraine's east, where, before turning his hand to art full time, he worked as a coal miner in Donetsk. 
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Singing Girl, by Sasha Korban. The Ukrainian artist fled the war in Ukraine's east, where, before turning his hand to art full time, he worked as a coal miner in Donetsk. 

A portrait of academic Mykhaylo Hrushevsky, who was among the leading figures in the Ukrainian national revival of the early 20th century, by Kailas-V. 
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A portrait of academic Mykhaylo Hrushevsky, who was among the leading figures in the Ukrainian national revival of the early 20th century, by Kailas-V. 

Labyrinth, by Russian artist Rustam QBic. Many of the murals are on quiet backstreets and can be difficult to find. 
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Labyrinth, by Russian artist Rustam QBic. Many of the murals are on quiet backstreets and can be difficult to find. 

SelfMadeMan, by Ukrainian artist Alexander Grebenyuk. In 2015, another Ukrainian, Sergii Gryshkevych, decided to put together a map locating all the murals. 
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SelfMadeMan, by Ukrainian artist Alexander Grebenyuk. In 2015, another Ukrainian, Sergii Gryshkevych, decided to put together a map locating all the murals. 

A mural by Spanish artist Aryz inside a courtyard in central Kyiv. Since its inception in 2015, when there were just a handful of such works, the interactive map now locates 137 murals in the Ukrainian capital. 
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A mural by Spanish artist Aryz inside a courtyard in central Kyiv. Since its inception in 2015, when there were just a handful of such works, the interactive map now locates 137 murals in the Ukrainian capital. 

Murals by Greek artist INO (left) and Portuguese artist Pantonio. 
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Murals by Greek artist INO (left) and Portuguese artist Pantonio. 

The Dreamer, by Fintan Magee, is a portrait of Ukrainian gymnast Hanna Rizatdinova, who is from Crimea but now based in Kyiv. Of Russia's forcible annexation of the peninsula in early 2014, Rizatdinova says, "I could not understand why. How can the Cri­mea be Russia? How can our Simferopol school train under a Rus­sian flag? I was outraged."
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The Dreamer, by Fintan Magee, is a portrait of Ukrainian gymnast Hanna Rizatdinova, who is from Crimea but now based in Kyiv. Of Russia's forcible annexation of the peninsula in early 2014, Rizatdinova says, "I could not understand why. How can the Cri­mea be Russia? How can our Simferopol school train under a Rus­sian flag? I was outraged."

Elephant Dream, by Sasha Korban. 
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Elephant Dream, by Sasha Korban. 

A mural by Vyacheslav Shuma on the western edge of Kyiv. 
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A mural by Vyacheslav Shuma on the western edge of Kyiv. 

Impact Of Discovery, by Canadian artist Li-Hill, on one of the buildings of the Kyiv Polytechnic Institute.
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Impact Of Discovery, by Canadian artist Li-Hill, on one of the buildings of the Kyiv Polytechnic Institute.

Freedom, by Alex Maksiov. 
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Freedom, by Alex Maksiov. 

Renaissance, by Seth Globepainter and Ukrainian artist Kislow. 
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Renaissance, by Seth Globepainter and Ukrainian artist Kislow. 

A mural by Brazilian artist Nunca. The concept of the work was to blend Brazilian and Ukrainian cultures in a single character. 
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A mural by Brazilian artist Nunca. The concept of the work was to blend Brazilian and Ukrainian cultures in a single character. 

Instability, by Greek artist INO. The 50-meter mural shows a ballerina dancing atop a bomb. 
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Instability, by Greek artist INO. The 50-meter mural shows a ballerina dancing atop a bomb. 

The Rebuild, by Fintan Magee. The Australian artist says the model for the piece was a Ukrainian friend, Kateryna, from Kyiv. 
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The Rebuild, by Fintan Magee. The Australian artist says the model for the piece was a Ukrainian friend, Kateryna, from Kyiv. 

A Sasha Korban piece in progress, photographed on August 16. A resident of the northern suburb said of the project, "It's great. For years we've had nothing to look at but concrete." 
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A Sasha Korban piece in progress, photographed on August 16. A resident of the northern suburb said of the project, "It's great. For years we've had nothing to look at but concrete." 

Swift, by Alex Maksiov. The young Ukrainian artist used 90 liters of paint for the mural. Ukraine's flag is reflected in the bird's eye. 
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Swift, by Alex Maksiov. The young Ukrainian artist used 90 liters of paint for the mural. Ukraine's flag is reflected in the bird's eye. 

Murals by Italian artist 2501 (left) and Spanish Artist Okuda. The mural by 2501 is believed to be the tallest in Europe. 
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Murals by Italian artist 2501 (left) and Spanish Artist Okuda. The mural by 2501 is believed to be the tallest in Europe. 

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