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From octopus to coffee: the visual delights of Zoia Skoropadenko's minimalist art – Monaco Tribune



From being accused of spying for the United States, to working as an Interpol translator, the life of Monaco-based artist Zoia Skoropadenko is a collection of colourful dinner-party anecdotes. Her art, however, seeks simplicity above all, reworking timeless subject matters and every-day themes.

For Zoia Skoropadenko, life is a one-man show. “I’ve learned that if you want to anything in life, you have to be like Woody Allen,” she tells us when we first meet in a garden just off the Monte-Carlo Casino. “Whatever you want to do, you have to do it yourself. Want to make a film? Then you have to write your own script, find the money to produce it, direct it, and star in it.” As she pulls out two mugs and a flask of steaming coffee we are about to drink, she adds: “You also have to be very confident about your art, otherwise you’re doomed.” 

Being a painter wasn’t really a career option in a country that didn’t have enough potatoes to eat

Zoia Skoropadenko was born in Kryvyi Rih, an industrial city in Ukraine. She fell in love with art as a child thanks to friends of her mother who would come to paint at her house. Yet, while she attended art school throughout her childhood and teenage years, a career as an artist was never in the books. At university, she studied international journalism. “Being a painter wasn’t really a career option in a country that didn’t have enough potatoes to eat,” she says amused. “My parents told me to do journalism because newspapers would always be on sale.”

They actually still think I’m a spy, but they’re very careful with me now that Ukraine is under America’s thumb.

Before Zoia Skoropadenko could finish her studies, she was thrown out of the University of Lviv on suspicion of spying for the CIA. “They actually still think I’m a spy, but they’re very careful with me now that Ukraine is under America’s thumb.” The accuser was one of her professors, who happened to be a former KGB agent. “He was suspicious because I was editor of the student newspaper and very active within the university,” explains Skoropadenko. “I also knew very good English, which in Ukraine was very rare.” 

First steps in Monaco

While Zoia Skoropadenko did not come to Monaco to pursue art, it was on the Côte d’Azur that she decided she would be an artist. After being thrown out of university, she found a job as a media consultant in the Principality. In Monaco, the future artist also worked as a freelance translator for Interpol. Zoia Skoropadenko just happens to speak eight languages. “I have such stories from Interpol. I even translated during the Monaco Pink Panther interrogations.” 

During all this time, Zoia Skoropadenko never stopped sketching. Eventually, pushed by her friends, she exhibited some of her work at a gallery in Monaco and sold her first painting. “I decided I was going to be a full-time artist when I sold that first painting,” she tells us, “though the second painting took a long time to come through. After my first exhibition, I didn’t sell another painting for eight years.” 

Zoia Skoropadenko holding an octopus

A breakthrough

Zoia Skoropadenko first came to international attention with a series called “Torsos”. The paintings depict octopuses that are arranged in a way to make them look like parts of the human body. Painted on a dark backdrop, the works bring to mind renaissance anatomical drawings and excavated Greek busts. “I was a hungry artist at the time. It was just after the 2007 market crash and I had lost most of my income,” she recalls. A local fisherman gave her 3 octopuses to eat. Instead, Zoia Skoropadenko painted them. 

When you look at art, you realise that nothing has changed in 3,000 years

The series secured her an exhibition in London that would kick-start her international career: the editor of the art magazine Creative Review visited the showing and put Zoia Skoropadenko as “Revelation of the year” in the magazine’s next issue. “After the article, I was everywhere, my phone kept ringing.” In Europe, Torsos was even exhibited at the council of Europe, where deputies accused the octopuses of being pornographic.

Torsos © Zoia Skoropadenko

What inspires her?

Pornographic or not, since Torsos, Zoia Skoropadenko has been working full-time as a painter. When it comes to her work, the artist says that she is interested in constants. “When you look at art, you realise that nothing has changed in 3,000 years. With the torsos, I wanted to rework one of the oldest subjects in the history of art. My goal is always to create something that will be meaningful for generations.”

People in museums want to look at paintings that are familiar. Subjects need to speak to people.

She tells us about her most recent work, a series of still lives called New Pompei Masters. “ I started out being inspired by Dutch masters, but then I went to the Archaeological Museum in Naples and realised that Roman painters were doing the same exact thing millennia before.”  

Coffee Drinkers © Zoia Skoropadenko

The artist is not particularly keen on contemporary art, which she dismisses as “noise” and laments its urge to depict gruesome subjects. “People in museums want to look at paintings that are familiar. Subjects need to speak to people. They want to see something simple, something touching. The best subject is the simplest and the oldest one.”

Coffee Drinkers © Zoia Skoropadenko

Zoia Skoropadenko’s art reworks everyday subjects: landscapes, bodies, glassware painted in pastel colours. Food is a recurrent theme. On the business card she gives us is a Japanese woman holding a barely discernible cup of coffee. The work is part of the Coffee Drinkers series, which depicts in minimalist strokes coffee drinkers of the past, from women in corsets and kimonos to tailcoat-wearing men.

© Zoia Skoropadenko

Despite coronavirus, Zoia Skoropadenko is bustling with projects. She regularly curates a walk-by gallery in Monte-Carlo’s Palais de la Scala and is currently preparing an exhibition on ceramics from Monaco and the French town of Vallauris which will take place in Paris. In Paris, she’s also planning a vernissage of her own work in a 300 square meter gallery right in the heart of the Marais. We go back to Woody Allen. “If  I want to do an exhibition, I have to make it happened. I can’t just sit around and wait for others to invite me to exhibit. I just have to be like Woody Allen.”

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No More Rules: How Boccara Art Galleries Came Full Circle Online – Forbes



While the arts industry is struggling to cope with the post-pandemic rules of public engagement, there are also examples of institutions adapting well and even thriving under the New Normal. Throughout 2020 my reporting highlighted the rise in demand for video art and transition to virtual reality formats as well as establishment of curators as arbiters of culture at large. Recently, I came across a story that at first seemed counterintuitive: a network of contemporary art galleries specialized in physical pieces expanding into new markets despite international movement restrictions and volatility of global financial markets. How does one secure a creative business in our turbulent times? Since 2007, Boccara Art Galleries has been fostering a type of organizational model previously reserved for larger iconic institutions like Louvre Abu Dhabi or Guggenheim Bilbao: several branded locations co-managing multiple agendas. With presence in eight major cities on three continents, Boccara is becoming a known force of intercultural diplomacy. I reached out to the Boccara Art Galleries founder Liubov Belousova and Julia Bogichevich, co-founder of the Boccara Moscow outpost, to see how current cross-industry conditions are impacting their vision, strategy and daily operations. 

Many art institutes are closing. You are opening new locations. Tell me, what kind of magic do you practice?

Liubov Belousova, Boccara Art Galleries founder (LB): There is no magic. I’ve never done anything but sell art since I was 18. You just get better at your job with time. It’s the only thing I know how to do and the only thing I want to do. 

How does an 18-years old start to sell fine art?

LB: It was destined, I think. [Laughs] In 2001, in my second year at the university, I had to create a website to pass my computer science exam. Most people made personal pages but decided to use photos of art works from several artist friends. Out of the blue, I received a phone call from an international development company with a huge office in the heart of Moscow. They wanted to buy four featured works! My student project, in fact, became one of the first fully digital gallery in Russia. Now everyone wants to take art business online, but we’ve been doing this for twenty years already.

Is the art market embracing e-commerce as readily as the fashion or music industries?

LB: Sure, it’s possible to buy art which costs hundreds of thousands of dollars from your sofa. The Internet has reduced the distance between the artist and the collector. People don’t need galleries, because they can find whatever they want. However, art collecting is not about transactions. In today’s world “trust” is the most precious commodity. Most people need to understand what they are buying and why before they make their decisions. People need emotional connections, so physical galleries become important in a different way. We don’t expect all who come in to buy something immediately. Most people follow their curiosity first. They may discover an artist and buy their works online later. 

Did multi-space approach prove to be a liability or strength during the pandemic?

LB: Since our first place opened in 2007, we invested significantly in following the collectors and engaging local art scenes in popular destinations. I said early on, “We want to be everywhere!” It is our strength that you can look up a Boccara gallery in most major art cities and find one. Every gallery of the group shares their local talent with the other branches. It helps to give a better visibility to our artists who can be seen literally around the world. We also participate in a dozen international art fairs each year. Having our own space in some of those host cities is another plus! I think that’s part of a much deeper question. How do we see the future of the art business? In this new reality is there a reason for physical shops? For us, so far, the answer is absolutely yes! 

How do you see the global art scene changing post-pandemic?

LB: I have spoken with many colleagues over the last months and the only thing everyone agrees on is that there are more buyers today than ever before. We have a lot of new buyers who have never bought art online before. Buyers today have much more freedom to choose and they are much less influenced by trends and headlines. It doesn’t matter if you are dealing with works for under $5.000 or competing in the $500.000+ niche. Overall, the market has become much more affordable and transparent. 

Is art still considered a risky investment?

Julia Bogichevich, co-founder of the Boccara Moscow outpost (JB): Quite the opposite! There is a growing recognition of art as an investment asset class by investors as well as people becoming more educated and sophisticated in their estate planning. Not so long ago, there was a perception that fine art was reserved for the rich and the very rich. Now a much larger and more diverse community has started to be interested in collecting. The art market is not as sensitive to collective panic cycles. During the 2008 financial crisis, for example, art indexes fell by 4.5% while those of the S&P 500 plummeted by 37.5%. The current socio-economic climate also creates a demand for ‘real assets’ because many see the ups and downs of tech industries or bitcoin as unreliable. 

How do you choose the artists to represent?

JB: It is a matter of personal taste and understanding global trends. We are working a lot with Korean artists right now. Traditionally, Korean art was about harmonizing with nature and refraining from expressing extremes. The new fusion wave from the Gangnam Style hit to last year’s Oscar winning Parasite is consistently challenging the conventional boundaries. We introduced Hyun AE Kang to American audiences with an exhibition at Muzeo Museum in Anaheim, California and now bringing the show to Russia in March. Kim Seungwoo’s work with coins and buttons is a fascinating critique of monetary relations within the arts. We love the dreamlike installations by Kim Jeong Yeon, too! The fantastic mother- daughter Cha Yun Sook & Hayeon create beautiful textile and paper-based pieces. Meanwhile, Krista Kim is a founder of a revolutionary new art movement called ‘Techism’… There is so much to explore there!

Any advice for emerging artists trying to succeed commercially?

JB: Concentrate on growing your name and becoming better and better in what you do! Find your unique vision, your own techniques and cultivate them to perfection. Important to have an international way of thinking because in our days there are no borders for art and collectors are able to find you everywhere in the world. The attention will come.

LB: Remember, there are no more rules! [Laughs]. There is absolute freedom for creating and finding new ways to connect with audiences. Don’t be afraid to reach out directly to different galleries to ask their opinion. Keep on re-inventing yourself. It is our business motto, too!

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MacLaren launches new public art series using downtown Barrie windows – BarrieToday



Barrie buildings are soon to become art canvases as part of an intimate new outdoor public art project Wintertide. An initiative of the MacLaren Art Centre, this three-part series will utilize downtown windows to show projections of works by regional artists as well as a special international feature. From March 10 to 24, the project will transform ordinary public spaces with light, bringing joy and excitement to our community during these dark and difficult times.

Wintertide is intended to be an annual program run in collaboration with the City of Barrie and the local arts community. This year’s theme, Return of Light refers to the time change that occurs at the culmination of the project as well as the optimism afforded by mass vaccination and the eventual end of the pandemic.

MacLaren Executive Director Karen Carter says, “The program was conceived by our team, not only to brighten spirits, but also to provide support to local artists who have lost opportunities to show their work due to the pandemic. The projections will encourage residents to go outside, shop locally at downtown businesses and enjoy art while observing safe social distancing protocols.”

As part of the two-week installation, artwork and short films will be projected onto the MacLaren Art Centre’s Mulcaster and Collier Street windows. Additional displays will feature on windows at City Hall and the empty storefront at 46 Mulcaster St. Each art projection is approximately two minutes long and will be repeated on a continuous loop during the display hours.

Angela Aujla (Barrie), David Andrec (Barrie) and Krystal Ball (Toronto and Jamaica) are artists who have contributed to the project this year. Their artwork was selected to bring light and colour to the downtown core during the darkest days of the year and is meant to be a hopeful presence for passersby.

Joining the local artists, Los Angeles-based filmmaker Tarun Lak, has offered his India Vignettes video compilation to the series. An animator at Pixar Animation Studios, Lak is known for his playful work, which captures the familiar ways in which Indian children revel in their little moments of joy. Audiences can learn more about Lak’s practice in a free Zoom talk in March with the artist, Alana Traficante, Executive Director at Gallery 44 and Deepali Dewan, Dan Mishra Curator of South Asian Art & Culture at the Royal Ontario Museum.

Wintertide is part of a broader series of public programs at the Gallery known as MacLaren Offsite, which features local, national and international artists in collaborative pop-up exhibitions and community art projects across Barrie and Simcoe County. The program reflects the Gallery’s commitment to building a vibrant, healthy and creative community in the region.

This year’s Wintertide initiative was executed with a number of community partners from the Barrie artistic and cultural communities and made possible through the generous support of Founding Partners: the City of Barrie, Georgian BMW, the Sarjeant Company, Canadian Forces Base Borden and Simcoe County Archives.

All art projections featured in Wintertide can be viewed from the intersection of Collier Street and Mulcaster Street in downtown Barrie. They will run daily from dusk to dawn through March 24, 2021.

To learn more about Wintertide, visit or follow along with updates on the MacLaren Art Centre’s social media platforms on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.


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Sask. painter, sculptor selected to make official Disney artwork –



A Saskatoon artist is joining the elite ranks of those who bring the magic of Disney to life.

Denyse Klette is the first Canadian to be signed by Collectors Editions as an officially published creator of Disney fine art. 

“It’s magical,” Klette said. “My mom and dad had Sunday nights as a special evening where … they’d make us hamburgers and French fries and we’d watch The Wonderful World of Disney. So I absolutely grew up on this.”

Denyse Klette is a painter and sculptor based on an acerage outside of Saskatoon, Sask. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC)

The Collectors Editions is not a Disney Corporation, but it’s the only independent company in the world with rights to produce and publish Disney fine art. 

“They have a small group of artists from around the world that they’ve selected and we get to design and create Disney art,” Klette said. “The originals are sold in different Disney galleries and also they have reproductions done.”

The painter and sculptor lives on an acreage just outside of Saskatoon and has a style that combines her mediums. Klette paints an image, then sculpts around the edges to give it a 3D aspect.

Denyse Klette’s work combines painting with sculpture work around the edges. (© Disney)

Klette said she is allowed to base pieces on almost any of Disney’s animated works. She first produces a full-colour concept drawing on her iPad then uploads it to the Collectors Edition team. The team sends it to the Walt Disney Company, which then reviews it and makes any corrections on proportions or colours. Disney then sends it back to the Collectors Edition, which gives her the go ahead. 

So far she has created artwork inspired by Beauty and the Beast, Moana, Tangled, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Frozen, The Lion King, Lilo & Stitch and Mulan.

Denyse Klette is authorized to produce work based on animated characters from Disney. She paints the picture then adds sculpted frames for a unique piece of art. (© Disney)

Her work is mainly on display at the Disney art gallery at the Epcot Centre in Florida, but she’s allowed to sell in Canada through her website. Her originals or reproductions can also be found at galleries authorized by Collector’s Editions.

“It’s so much fun. I get to walk into my studio and paint Mickey Mouse,” Klette said. “I still do like my non-Disney, but to do Disney art, it’s such a magical and close-to-the-heart experience.”

Klette said she has an extensive library of Disney books that she collected over the course of almost 40 years.

“It really is a dream come true.”

Noka Aldoroty, the director of Disney fine art at Collectors Editions, said in a statement that Walt Disney’s ability to inspire others to create was his greatest talent.

“It amazes me that even to this day his legacy is still inspiring artists to invent new ways of reimagining and interpreting Disney stories through their own creative lens,” Aldoroty said. 

“We saw in Denyse a truly unique point-of-view artistically, and we could not be more excited to share her talents with Disney fans and art collectors around the world.”

One of Denyse Klette’s pieces is a Moana-inspired painting with a custom-sculpted frame. (© Disney)

Klette’s work can be found in hotels, resorts, private collections, home decor products, bags, puzzles and more. She also signed a book deal in 2016 with Macmillan Publishers for a whimsical series of adult colouring books distributed worldwide. 

Klette is currently working on pieces inspired by Cruella de Vil from 101 Dalmations and Ursula from The Little Mermaid

The Morning Edition – Sask5:15Sask. woman first Canadian to be chosen as fine artist for Disney’s Collectors Editions

From The Lion King to Moana, Disney animation has inspired decades of memorable characters. Now, a Saskatoon artist is joining the elite ranks of those who bring the magic of Disney to life. Denyse Klette is the first Canadian to be signed by Collectors Editions, as an officially published artist of Disney Fine Art. Denyse joins host Stefani Langenegger to talk about her unique artistic style and being signed to Disney. 5:15

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