• Andrei Dureika

Results of 2023

Together with , we summarize the state of Belarusian contemporary art in 2023.

Trends of Belarusian Art Worldwide

The ever-expanding Belarusian diasporas worldwide are organizing more events abroad. Despite a declining interest in Belarus, there is an internal strengthening of networks of Belarusian art globally: conferences are held, research is conducted, and new institutions are established. Numerous examples show the strengthening of partnerships with various foreign institutions and experts.

Among the most common themes in statements and events are nomadism and forced emigration, protests and solidarity, fixation on confusion and frustrations, exploration of the history of Belarusian culture, ethnography, and the Belarusian language.

Andrei Dureika:

It seems to me that restrictions on freedom and dialogue have contributed to the absence of any unifying large representative exhibition of Belarusian art this year, both in the country and abroad, where the situation for collaboration is worsening. Perhaps one can recall the release this year and a few book presentations of the namesake of the exhibition organized last year by curator in Bialystok and Leipzig. Many doors automatically closed after the shift from the Belarusian label "last dictatorship" to "country co-aggressor."

© Roman Trotsyuk: “Sickles”, at the Asia–Europe Mediations Biennale in Istanbul, 2023

That's why individual strategies are probably more successful this year and hold more prospects for integration into the art scene and avoiding exclusion. This is evidenced by the participation of and the group at the Kiev Biennale 2023 or in the Asia–Europe Mediations Biennale “I am another You, You are another me” in Istanbul.

Interestingly, last year saw a major exhibition of the star of Belarusian art history, , titled "" (K20 / Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Dusseldorf). Unfortunately, the exhibition is not accessible to most compatriots, and it lacks the participation of works from Belarus, especially our famous . Perhaps turning to his painterly and expressive experience could have had a greater impact on understanding contemporary painting, unlike the rapidly emerging surrealist post-photographic figurative painting of the academic environment, which has rooted itself quite deeply and even collects its commercial trophies.

© Presentation of the OpenMuzej project and the Imagining OpenMuzej Belarus conference, Berlin, 2023

In the past year, the ability for self-organization in the new conditions of the nomadic state of Belarusian art abroad has once again manifested itself. Several interesting initiatives can be highlighted, including the presentation of the new Open Muzej (OM) initiative at a special conference “” in Berlin, a new initiative called was presented, launching the as part of its activities – which continues to contemplate what a museum of contemporary art might be like in the conditions of dispersion of the Belarusian artistic community worldwide; in September, the "First Congress of Belarusian Culture in Emigration" took place in Warsaw; the was established; the interdisciplinary activities of – Belarusian Art Space in Berlin were noteworthy; the “Teraz / Zaraz” program, a presentation series of Belarusian artists living in Poland, was organized at Biuro Wystaw in Warsaw; , a curator and art manager, launched a video project on Belarusian art titled "Conversations of a Little Hedonist."

This year, the following residencies for Belarusian artists continued or were established: portal not only announced its own online journal but also continued to provide residencies as part of a special ; the network of residencies and cultural exchange for Belarusian artists and cultural figures, conducted in collaboration with the initiative, continued its activities; a new foundation and residency, , were opened in Mochnat near Białystok; in Białystok itself, the "Dom Tvorcaŭ" art residency (Rezydencja "Dom twórców") was also inaugurated.

Another notable feature in the visual arts is the inclination towards interdisciplinary collaboration and the exploration beyond specific genres, leading to the creation of synthetic projects. Here, it's worth highlighting the following: the activities at the intersection of performance and kinetic sculpture by the PYL group, featuring ; exhibitions and happenings by ; the scenographic installation with slogans by ; projects at the intersection of fashion and art by ; project "Chustki – Chusty – Chustački" at TFH Concept Store in Warsaw, combining installation, performance, traditional singing, and design; , a street art community created to build a dialogue between different cultures, realized a series of murals in Tbilisi with the participation of renowned Belarusian artists from different countries; created the third part of the multimedia project , revealing the connection between the human psyche and nature in the conditions of socio-political crisis; this year saw the active presentation of projects by and , creating multisensory installations and performances where physics, chemistry, informatics, and philosophical practices converge; and it's particularly noteworthy to mention the creative debut in theater by in the opera Wild Hunt of King Stakh in collaboration with the Belarus Free Theatre, combining theater, multimedia, and live music, premiered at the Barbican Hall in London.

© Yura Shust: fragment of the personal exhibition Coniferous Succession in the Management space in New York, 2023

We will mention several more notable projects and events from this year: 's solo exhibition on space and the era of turbulence, "Relentless Flow of Time," in Oslo; the group exhibition ". Around the Photographic Archive" curated by ; 's solo exhibition in the Management space in New York; the queer archival exhibition by and ; 's solo exhibition curated by in Berlin; the group exhibition "" in Poznań curated by ; the online exhibition "" by the group and photographers , , ; 's solo exhibition at the HOS gallery in Warsaw; – 's solo exhibition at the Arsenal Gallery in Poznań, and many others. We have listed only a few of the most prominent events, and since our portal is archival, this list will continue to expand even after the publication. Below is another part of the list with the most important exhibitions and projects of the year with a strong political context.


Following the tragic events of 2020–2021, Belarus continues to be divided into two parts. The independent opposition government in exile and Belarusian diasporas actively distance themselves from any involvement in the actions of the authorities within Belarus, especially concerning Belarus's participation in Russia's military invasion of Ukraine. Against the backdrop of the ongoing war, various initiatives by Belarusians worldwide are being organized to show solidarity and support for Ukrainian colleagues. The cancellation of Russian culture in the artistic community abroad persists.

Andrei Dureika:

There is an increasing trend of distinction, disconnection, and a sense of "here" versus "there," and this does not bode well for the common cause. Fear and uncertainty are unlikely to contribute to normal development, although some artists believe that such a psychological state of experiencing tragedy can be individually processed into profound dramatic works.

Perhaps the most obvious trend in Belarusian art continues to be its politicization. Today, it is clear to everyone that without resolving the political crisis that has led the country into an aggressive war, there will be no progressive changes in the cultural sphere. Many different events can be noted in this regard.

© fragment of the exhibition 𝖭̶𝖨̶𝖢̶𝖧̶𝖳̶ UNSER KRIEG, Weltkunstzimmer, Düsseldorf, 2023

For example, the continued activity of the international platform , which last year manifested itself in numerous exhibitions and presentations on major art platforms worldwide, continued to organize exhibitions this year, being among the finalists of The European Pavilion 2024 "Let's dream we are equal." The largest and most atmospheric of their exhibitions was organized on the anniversary of Russia's full-scale war against Ukraine: (Weltkunstzimmer, Düsseldorf). Addressing war as one of the major civilizational threats and placing a special emphasis on solidarity with Ukraine was a characteristic feature of many Belarusian events this year.

Many notable projects aligning with the trend of political expression in art and realized through traditional exhibition and performance formats can be highlighted (presented in chronological order):

Solo exhibition by , "" (Galeria Miejska Arsenał, Poznan);

project by and Sofia Tokar presented multiple times throughout the year, with the major exhibition "Nitě odporu – Rufina Bazlova" (Gallery of the Central Bohemian Region, Kutná Hora);

© Fragment of the exhibition “What is broken becomes tangible. Infrastructures and solidarity beyond post-Soviet conditions”, National Art Gallery in Vilnius

Exhibition by curatorial duo and , "Sutrikus tai tampa apčiuopiama. Infrastruktūros ir solidarumai už posovietinės būklės" / "" (Nacionalinės dailės galerijos, Vilnius) ;

: "Od kraju do kraju" (, Warsaw, curator: );

( and ): "" (Japanischen Palais, Dresden);

© Maxim Tyminko: still from the video “A Percussion Piece for Two Thousand and Nine Players”, 2023

presented his new monumental video work at the exhibition (Fashion Institute of Technology, New York), recalling two thousand nine Belarusian political prisoners;

: personal exhibition "" (66P Subiektyvna Instytucja Kultury, Wroclaw);

: solo exhibition Birds With the People (PSM Gallery, Berlin, curator: ).

Many of these exhibitions demonstrate the use of collage methods, raising the question of whether this is still an unresolved legacy of postmodernism or a characteristic technique illustrating the era of contradictions and the schizo-discourse during times of war and global crisis.

Artist and activist Jana Szostak is running for the Sejm on the list of the New Left (Nowa Lewica) in Poznań / © Photo: Piotr Skornicki / Agencja W

Perhaps the most radical in terms of the political trend was 's "action" "Sztuka idzie do sejmu" with her pre-election campaign in the Polish Sejm. This marked a transition from art-activist movements to real politics, where she entered as a voice for Belarusians with themes such as #GłosWykluczonych, #MostynieMury, #NaszeCiałaNaszaSprawa, #EdukacjanieFrustracja.

Trends inside Belarus

Visual arts within Belarus are currently in a "silence mode" (or a mode of self-preservation), preceded by an ineffective "waiting mode." There exists censorship at multiple levels in the entire cultural sphere, as political and critically independent art is currently impossible in the public sphere of Belarus.

In power, lists of "unreliable" artists have emerged. Changes to the Cultural Code came into effect on January 1, 2023, stating that every exhibition must undergo a coordination procedure: curators/organizers must photograph everything and, along with textual descriptions of the authors, their works, and other information, submit it for approval to the Ministry of Culture (this is a check by special services, where the Ministry is just an intermediary). The coordination occurs through a verbal recommendation via a phone call to avoid leaving evidence.

A notable phenomenon in censorship is the censorship of propagandists, or the so-called Bondarevaya/Sidarovich/Zhygimont phenomenon, named after the surnames of the three most well-known informants, dubbed the Riders of the Apocalypse in Belarus. These informants regularly post in the press, Telegram channels, and other social networks, publicly accusing individuals noticed in protests. The repressive response from the authorities to such posts sometimes happens immediately. To circumvent censorship, many artists are forced to exhibit and receive orders using pseudonyms. Lists of "unreliable" artists and other cultural figures are constantly expanding. There is a ban on exhibitions, a ban on purchasing artworks, and adding them to collections. Another method of pressure on artists is through raising workshop rents.

Another sad trend in the field of visual arts is pressure on creative unions: attempts by the regime to make them (including the ) organizations of "such an ideological nature" so that they specify in their activities "military-patriotic education" and similar things. Memberships in such unions are also suspended for some participants. Many specialists across the country have been dismissed (for example, was dismissed from the position of the director-general of the ), others were imprisoned , and some were forced to emigrate.

© At the opening of the festival "Art-Minsk 2023" at the in Minsk, 2023

In Belarus, mainly state-owned platforms showcase only "toothless," genre-based, patriotic, decorative, illustrative, salon, and academic art. Belarusian artists undertake their critical expressions or reflections on current events at their own risk, mostly discreetly: "in the shadows," during closed apartment gatherings, on "escape outings" beyond the city, and during residencies in other countries. Due to the safety concerns of those in Belarus, we currently cannot publish archives with their statements and documentation of events and other projects created within Belarus.

Andrei Dureika:

The flip side of this "politicization" has been the "tradition of repressive culture," where Belarusian art and, perhaps more broadly, the entire nation, have become hostages. The country increasingly resembles a ghetto. This theme is unfolded in various ways in Belarus, where, on the one hand, there is a growing emphasis on the revival of "apartment gatherings" and "outings to nature," renewing avant-garde and resistance strategies. On the other hand, a collaborative trend is gaining momentum, where alongside censorship, self-censorship and purges become even more problematic. For instance, within the Belarusian Union of Artists, a collaborative trend is emerging, advocating for the decorative imitation of artistic neutrality through exhibitions, which, in turn, is worse than censorship itself.

Ales Pushkin / © Photo: Sergey Mikhalenko

The most terrifying symbol of repression in our art became the death in prison of the most famous performance artist in Belarus, .


In addition to the tragic death of Ales Pushkin on July 11, we want to remember some other notable losses in Belarusian art. On April 6, at the age of 93, the renowned artist and painter passed away. On July 15, at the age of 71, after a severe illness, , a member of the group, left us. On November 21, 2023, at the age of 74, , a critic, art historian, teacher, curator, creator, and director of the gallery, passed away. On December 18, the famous Vitebsk artist passed away. Before Catholic Christmas, we also lost the artist . At the end of the year, it became known that the space in Minsk ceased its activities.

This essay can be supplemented, so we will be grateful for your contributions and references to important projects and events in Belarusian contemporary art in 2023 that may not have been included in the publication. You can reach us at