The Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art is pleased to present an exhibition of the late Bohdan Kowalsky’s collection, bequeathed to UIMA in 2008. The exhibition includes works by Polish, Ukrainian and Ukrainian-American artists, such as Archipenko, Nowosielski, Gritchenko, Trusz, Hnizdovsky, Solovij, Milonadis, Urban and many others.
Many art critics write reviews about artists and their art work but seldom about the art collectors and their collections. They are an important part of the art scene and thus should be given their due recognition. Since the nineteen sixties not much has been written about a long time art collector Bohdan Kowalsky. His collection of art of Ukrainian artists and artists of Ukrainian descent dates to the nineteen fifties. It is of a sizable accumulation of works consisting of paintings, sculptures, lithographs, wood cuts and drawings.
Bohdan Kowalsky was born in the city of Bryslav, western Ukraine, in 1923. Here he attended school and as a young man he was primarily interested in sports, especially the game of soccer. He was also one of the leaders of occupation resistance group that was involved in sabotaging the communist militia outposts by throwing hand grenades at night into the compounds. During the German occupation similar incidents occurred.
At the age of twenty he joined the Ukrainian Division Galizien which fought against the advancing Russian Army in 1944 during World War II. Luck was on his side as he avoided the battle of Brody thus escaping death or imprisonment by being hospitalized because of an appendicitis attack. Out of the eleven thousand men engaged in the battle only three thousand broke through the Russian army encirclement.
After the war he lived in a displaced person camp in Germany. From there he immigrated to the United States and settled in New York. With the arrival of new immigrants from Europe after 1947 the Ukrainian community became very active culturally. It staged plays, organized literary evenings and art exhibitions. Bohdan Kowalsky mostly frequented the art shows and by 1956 his collection consisted of more than two hundred artworks. These were mostly paintings, sculptures and graphics of artists who were residing in the city and the surrounding suburbs. He was mainly interested in the art work of Jacques Hnizdovsky, (paintings and wood cuts), Jurij Solovij (paintings), Liuboslav Hutsaliuk (paintings) and Gregor Kruk (sculpture).
In 1961 he moved to Chicago where he also encountered an active art group headed by two sculptors, Konstantin Milonadis and Mychajlo Urban.