Jurii Maniichuk: The Collector

Portrait of Jurii Maniichuk by Dmitro Kavsan.

Portrait of Jurii Maniichuk by Dmitro Kavsan.

Jurii Maniichuk collected close to 150 Ukrainian paintings for the Soviet era while living and working in Kyiv in the 1990s. born in Lviv, Jurii earned his Ph.D. in international law from the T. Shevchenko Kyiv State University and was a university professor there until moving to Canada and earning a master’s of law at Osgoode Hall, York University, in Toronto in 1991. He immigrated to the U.S. and became an American citizen while working as a legal specialist for the Library of Congress in the early 1990s. In 1993, two years after the Ukraine attained its independence, Jurii returned to Kyiv as a legal consultant to the Ukrainian parliament and presidential administration for the U.S. Agency of International Development and the World Bank.

The newly independent country was undergoing tremendous political and economic change. The art world was no exception. Like many other state institutions, art museums reeled from financial pressures. Impoverished artists scrambled for paint and canvases, sometimes painting over the earlier works. Suddenly, the official art of the Soviet period was discredited as mere propaganda. Museums and other institutions removed Soviet-era paintings from their walls and placed them in storage.

Portrait of V. Ogorchenko

Portrait of V. Ogorchenko

Worried that many examples of this period of Ukrainian art history could perish, Jurii made it his mission to assemble a collection of museum-quality Ukraine paintings of the Soviet era for study by future generations.

Together with art specialists, he traveled to Kharkiv, Zaporizhia, Kherson, Mykolaiv, Donetsk, and Sumy. He visited artist’ studios, museums, art academies, and palaces of culture. He acquired works directly from artists or their families, or from regional art institutions. The team also selected paintings from Kyiv-based artists.

Jurii Maniichuk brought his collection to the U.S. in 1999. In 2000, when Jurii and I married, I became involved. Jurii believed – and I agree – that the works he assembled may well represent one of the largest and finest collections of Ukrainian realist and socialist realist paintings in private hands in the U.S. Sadly, Jurii died unexpectedly while visiting Kyiv in December 2009. Now my goal is to find opportunities to exhibit the paintings at museums, universities, and other public venues – to fulfill Jurii’s goal of preserving them for future study and appreciation.

Rose Brady, Ph.D.

Excerpt from: Ukrainian Institute of America. Ukrainian Socialist Realism: The Jurii Maniichuk and Rose Brady Collection. New York, 2012. With permission from the author.