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Man Shall Not Live By Chair Alone...

I was always lucky to get "heavy-working" posts. The same kind was in 2004: I became a Director of the Museum of Russian Art. But before that there were a lot of events that I can't avoid being engaged into biography. You may remember, as in ancient chronicles their authors narrated about dukes' actions and numerous wars a year after year, told about the main stream (as we say today). If the sovereign didn't do anything special, or there was no campaign against enemies, chronicler without further ado wrote indicating the year: "Nothing happened".

There were no such "interruptions" in my biography. To the end the 90-ies I was already a famous expert in paintings of ancient masters, as well I paid enough attention to attribution of the canvas of the painters belonging to closer decades. Then (besides the situation has slightly changed until today) there were few common experts and experts of names. Mostly they belong to museum staff. Those who actively work on a junction of stylistic and technology expertise, have experience in restoration, who know art from inside, are the most qualified. Then tell me if I am not an ideal expert. Nothing to hide, the expertise is rather painstaking and routine work, in most cases it has neither hot-shot intrigue nor detective elements. Naturally difficult cases happen when some people set up for the painting of the famous artist the contemporary's painting (stylistically close to the master). Of course, it is a great delight to "catch" a counterfeit – you never get rid off the standard professional hazard. But also funny situations happen. Once, an artist brought me a client who wanted to expertise a painting. I said at once that it was a new "remake" and pointed out the reason: brushstrokes didn't harden, remained too soft. My visitors left. Suddenly five minutes later the artist returns and asks: "Could you tell what I should do to make paints look older?"

I shared my experience not only in practice but in the theory as well. As a maestro I taught students expertise and auction maintenance in the State Academy of the managing staff of the Ministry of Culture. So I was rich and successful, praising myself.

But that is my character: constancy has always been a synonym of narrow-mindedness and stupidity for me. And mastering other fields of activity was a peculiar stimulus to discovering something new in people and myself. Besides this is a great way to get rid of burden of past years turning over, like a young man, a new leaf. "Soul must work hard", Nikolay Zabolotskiy wrote, I would add to this classical formula: and remain young.

So I thought what if I become a Director of a museum? I shared my thoughts in the Municipal administration of culture where frankly speaking I had free access. The consideration was simple: you shouldn't wait until the ball comes to the player, you need to come to the ball. I wasn't wrong. And chance helped: Tamara Nikolaevna Soldatova, the Director of the Museum of Russian Art, decided to resign.

And suddenly I stood in reverent awe. The Museum of Russian Art has always been for me something almost unattainable, a delight since my early days, from the time I was sixteen when I visited it the first time.

Besides I got a kind of fear on a very down-to-earth level. Everything is running smoothly in my work. Wheels of business mechanism don't creak, expertise brings money, I have got plenty of esteem and respect, and now there is an absolute "way to the unknown". I couldn't sleep and eat for three days solving the classical question: to be or not to be? And then it dawned to me. Of course if you interpret this post as problems, responsibility and so on and so forth, then it is not worth meddling. What if it is a sunny day of the new life start, then take away doubts. I made a decision and I had got a feeling that I had a birthday which I waited for a long time. This holiday spirit doesn't leave me for five years, all the time that I head the Museum. Each day brings me presents – new ideas.

I was introduced to the museum team September 12th, 2004. There was a tense sense in the air, it was felt that everybody asked a question: what is life preparing to them after strong-willed and goal-seeking director, as Soldatova was? Maybe, he will puzzle or he won't harm – almost like Kozma Prutkov said. Soon the staff saw a kind of democrat: my first day I started with helping the charwoman to carry a bucket with water to the second floor. But they also noticed a kind of gentility: even to the show I came wearing dandyish white costume, not an "outfit" suiting to an official. That's a light beam in the museum kingdom.

Since then I serve to the Museum, not work for it, as the word "work" is so much insipid and trivial. The museum house, as we call our abode, is not just a place where paintings are kept, this is a space where a miracle happens day after day. As paintings become masterpieces only in touch with the audience producing a sparkle of human emotions. Except the artist's talent enclosed in them they must be in permanent communication with people who admire them to be come masterpieces as a result of co-creativity. Time never stops in the museum, it hastens its step, we turn over the centuries inhere living our and somebody else's lives in the great works of masters. A unique memory of the mankind, art code, universal language of communication, is concentrated inhere.

Maybe because of this tense sense of time, not lost (like of Marcel Prust) but found each day, the first thing I started my museum activity was a repairing of ancient long-case clock that now count out hours and minutes in our entrance hall. For me music of a museum is a creak of parquet and striking of clock. And another thing was a director's office; a museum starts in it, like a theater starts with hanger. The idea of its redecorating was at first very utilitarian, taking into account the specifics of our not so rich (for money) culture. I imagined to myself as I would meet the potential sponsor and other not so poor people in this miserably furnished office to ask for money for art projects. They will get a thought at once: "At first he will buy some bread for himself for this money at such devastation". So I did the office an artwork matching to the Museum. Just imagine it effectively works on the level of the sponsor's mind.

The staff calls me with a nickname "Great fairy teller". At first it had a shadow of irony, that meant the director would assimilate the new post and would restrain his reforming and innovating ardour. Now when time passed, everybody received evidence that my dreams in most cases came true. And colleagues are waiting for my new ideas as a fact close to accomplishment. At the beginning I was running ahead the museum "train", now I have workers, young "Chapayevs" who step ahead of me.

A director of a museum must be a master of culture more than any minister or other official in this very culture. That's why high life and publicity of the activity became a managing style for me. Ask any ambassador, minister or president, current or ex-, who is Vakulenko. Be sure they know. So they know the Museum of Russian Art. It must be frankly confessed, ambition like any successful leader needs not only self-heating (don't mix it with self-admiration), but nourishment from outside. Recently the magazine "Art Ukraine" included me into the list of fifty the most influential people in the art world of our country, endowing with a title – sex-symbol of the museum affairs. As they say, read and envy...

But if a person appears who can do better what I deal now, unhesitatingly I give up my place to him. By myself… I become a minister of culture, but it will be another story.

It seemed that service to the Museum replaced me the creative work, having become a self-valued artwork. Until the year 2008. My friend and alumni, the person I felt good with, "not because she is shining, but because the light is not necessary with her" brought me back to painting. She just asked me to present a painting to her birthday. So my work "Autumn Endearments of Scorpio" appeared. "Violet Angel" followed it. And I understood that I was sinful, and sinned for almost ten years, when I forgot about painting. Because the gift is never vain and incidental. I returned to the fold of the Church, its name is Art. The second year I unhand brushes. About it I will talk in the future album. The life is going on, don't dare to doubt in it!

Yuriy Vakulenko

My History  |  Touch of Brush  |  PriBAMbasy (Fancy gadgets)  |  "We had a wonderful epoch"  |  39,2 Degree and Above  |  Man Shall Not Live By Chair Alone...