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Victor Pinchuk’s Sun

Interpipe Steel is an iron and steel works built by Victor Pinchuk from scratch and an open-air museum at the same time. What does it bring to the city, apart from jobs and taxes? Nina Mischenko

On an Autumn evening of 2011, 15 cars simultaneously approached the wasteland overrun by weeds as tall as human height in the industrial area of Dnipropetrovsk. Twenty men in formal suits, carrying lights and area maps, stepped out of the cars. Those were creative landing troops of Olafur Eliasson, a Danish-Icelandic artist searching for a location to place his future installation – the artificial sun. Eliasson was striving for a perfect location, so that the object is seen from afar, from all sides, even from the opposite bank of the Dnipro River. The artist was invited “to make the sun” by the billionaire Victor Pinchuk, who was building a new iron and steel works on that wasteland. Victor Pinchuk saw Mr Eliasson’s Sun at The Weather Project, a famous installation at London’s Tate Modern Gallery. There, in the Turbine Hall of the former power station, Mr Eliasson installed a giant luminous circle lit with 200 lamps.

During the preparation for the artist’s first solo exhibition in Eastern Europe in the PinchukArtCentre in Kyiv, Victor Pinchuk offered that Mr Eliasson should create an art object in Dnipropetrovsk. Over 190, 000 persons visited Your Emotional Future exhibition. “When I created works for the exhibition, Victor told me that he wanted to set art installations at his new iron and steel works”, Mr Eliasson recollects. It was Mr. Pinchuk’s dream to make a work of art to be seen by all the people of Dnipropetrovsk, the city where he grew up, worked and started his business. Eliasson agreed. Artistic installations are not rare in the industrial areas of Scandinavian countries. “I felt that I would cope with the project. My works were to bring a bit of unpredictability and aestheticism into the city’s and the factory’s life”, the artist told Forbes.

He worked over the project for a year and a half. While the factory was under construction, Mr. Eliasson visited the site with his staff several more times, and discussed with Mr. Pinchuk his ideas of the installations. “We have always been in touch with Olafur”, the businessman says. Victor Pinchuk still keeps sketches made with pencil. “It was right after our first discussions that I understood: static objects should be avoided”, Eliasson recollected. “The factory workers perceive steel as a moveable and ever-changing material. I wanted to show this perception in my sculptures”.

Five installations were created as a result. The first one is the factory’s main entrance gate. Eliasson created a corridor out of elliptic and round arches, which two trucks may go through side-by-side. The pipes for the gate were manufactured at Interpipe companies, and only one factory in Russia could add the right curves to the pipes. The gates were repainted several times, and only car paint experts were able to ensure the desired quality of the coating. The installation was entitled as Your Tunnel of Time. “This is an element of unpredictability and aesthetics in the factory’s regimented and utilitarian life”, Eliasson explains the concept.

As you drive through the arch in the morning, you can watch the artificial sunrise. This is the key art object for Mr. Pinchuk, entitled as Dnepropetrovsk Sunrise. Two crossing yellow ellipsoids made of corrugated metal are placed at the height of 60 meters and lit with special spotlights. Every day “Pinchuk’s Sun” turns on and off automatically, and a special application synchronizes this process with the real time of sunrise and sunset. “The Sun is the embodiment of plastic energy, and the iron and steel works adds contours to this energy. The effect is that the Sun is always rising over the city”, Mr Eliasson comments. “This installation is an answer to the question: what would it be like, if there were two suns? How would this affect our perception of the world, the Universe and ourselves?”

The third art object is on the workshops’ metal façades. Mr. Eliasson created huge images under the common title Your Fire Pattern. For an artist, this is an “abstract representation of the invisible heat of molten steel”. The façade pictures resemble the windows – you can look through them to see what is going on in the workshops.

Steel casting was also a source of inspiration for Eliasson when he created his fourth installation, entitled as Material is Movement. According to the artist, the five round and elliptic figures out of yellow reflecting material on one of the walls symbolize the rising sun as well. They are seen from virtually any point in the workshop: both from below, where the large ladles with molten metal are moving, and from the stairways enabling the workers to move around the factory. As they put it in a joke, the correct upper circle is the “worker on Monday”, and the “lower ellipsis stands for a tired worker on Friday”.

However, Your Bridge of Reflections is what strikes you most. Every day the workers walk along the 22-meter catwalks between Interpipe Steel’s buildings. Eliasson lined the walls and the ceiling with mirrors and fastened along the curtain rods metal semi-spheres out of arched pipes with bulbs inside. They look like little Suns reflecting in the mirrors multiple times. All this together creates an illusion of an infinite tunnel.

According to the art critic Konstantin Doroshenko, Interpipe Steel is the most successful project of Victor Pinchuk as a curator, not as a businessman or collector. “The art objects turn the factory into a single project, a complete object, and being inside it, you are a participant and a live component of the new art”, says Mr. Doroshenko. “The factory itself, with its huge mechanisms and the space arranged in a way enabling you to see not only the installations, but also the panorama of production process, is convincing, in aesthetic terms”.

Victor Pinchuk could not have five installations created by an Icelandic artist at his factory to show them to the staff and guests alone. He turned Interpipe Steel into a large museum of art. When the businessman was creating his PinchukArtCentre in mid-2000s, it was widely debated whether such museum would be useful for the society. Nowadays, thousands of people visit the art center daily. “People are interested in such combination of cutting-edge technologies and contemporary art”, Mr. Pinchuk is convinced. Free tours around the factory are held three times a day. The tour guides are the employees who can be experts in various areas (thus, the arc furnace operator accompanied Forbes journalist during the visit). The employees are paid the fee of UAH 100 per tour. Visitors put trademark vests and safety helmets on. First, the film about the creation of the installations is demonstrated, and then people are shown around the factory’s premises.

The information plates in several languages are available next to each object.

Over 35 000 persons have visited the factory over the past 18 months.

Mr. Pinchuk has spent over USD 1 million to show his factory-turned-museum to people for free. The group visit of 15 persons costs the minimum of UAH 560, inclusive of transportation costs. When asked about the fee paid to Mr. Eliasson, the businessman joked more than once that Interpipe Steel is his largest art project, with over USD 700 million invested in it.

Various types of tours are offered at the factory: those for schoolchildren, students, enthusiasts of contemporary art and people whose primary interest is manufacturing. An alternative tour for the company’s staff is available: you can bring your family members and show your workplace. Igor Mazepa, the owner of Concorde Capital’s investment company, attended Interpipe Steel’s opening ceremony. “Everything is done like you do at home: you collect the works of art and then bring the guests to show them”, the investment banker says. “This does not directly affect the factory’s value, of course. However, this demonstrates Mr. Pinchuk’s attitude to both business and art”.

What is the factory employees’ attitude to the fact that their workplaces were transformed into a museum? According to Mr. Pinchuk, some people like contemporary art a lot, while others do not pay any special attention to that. “As far as I know, most people say that their attitude to the process has changed for the better, owing to their work in immediate closeness to the works of art”, the businessman says. “In Scandinavia, such art installations at industrial facilities are believed to be a valuable resource: they influence people, making them feel proud of their place of employment”, Eliasson agrees. “The works of art installed at the factory show the emergence of the contemporary art in Ukraine. The country is changing today. It is important that the culture should go hand in hand with such changes”.

Excellent result: Victor Pinchuk dreamed of one installation at his new factory, however, five installations emerged as a result of the alliance between the businessman and the artist.   

Source: Forbes Ukraine. Author: Nina Mischenko
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