Winnipeg-born playwright creates art auction for Ukraine

More than 140 original art pieces from 40 Ukrainian artists are being featured in a global art auction to support the war effort in Ukraine. Alex Karpa reports.

By Alex Karpa

As the war in Ukraine nears six months, a former Winnipegger is spearheading a global auction of Ukrainian artwork – with funds raised going to help support the humanitarian effort.

Michael Rubenfeld, who now lives in Krakow, Poland, is co-director of the global art auction called Fight with Art.

The auction features more than 140 original art pieces from 40 Ukrainian artists.

“We started to ask ourselves, what could we do, being so uniquely positioned in Krakow, also being an arts organization two and a half hours from the border, and it was clear we couldn’t do nothing.

“This auction is one of the largest, most exciting, most impressive collection of Ukrainian art, that’s been collected in Ukraine, since the start of the war.”

Rubenfeld is hoping to raise at least half a million dollars to financially help both the artists whose careers were halted, and charities assisting with war relief efforts.

The showcased works are from artists all across Ukraine, including Kharkiv and Mariupol.

Rubenfeld says getting all the art safely to Krakow was not an easy task and took them about three months to get every single piece.

“We quickly had to go through a process of how do you get 100-centimetre square piece from the Carpathian Mountains to Lviv and then from there to Krakow and the logistics were very difficult,” he said.

Olena Kayinska’s Desert Sand Witches (2020). (Credit: Fight With Art)

Olena Kayinska from Lviv is one of the several Ukrainian artists donating her paintings to the auction. She says it was important for her to help in any way she could.

“When my paintings will be sold, and the money will go to the charitable purpose, it’s the best that I could even imagine,” said Kayinska.

When the war started in February, Kayinska stopped creating art and volunteered to help fight for her country. She joined Doctors Without Borders as a translator and project manager.

“I decided, ‘yeah I can be very useful here’ and now I struggle to combine the full-time job with MSF and the artist career and succeed in some way,” she said.

Kayinska says the war has fallen off the news cycle over the past few months, but stresses it is worsening every day.

Rubenfeld is trying to send the same message. He says it’s extremely important to preserve Ukrainian art and culture and for him, it was important to ‘fight with art.’

“We’re doing this to remind people that this war is continuing on, and we don’t know how long it is going to go,” said Rubenfeld. “These are people like you and I whose lives are at stake, people who are trying to defend their country, which is arguably a genocidal front.”

The art auction runs online until Sept. 4.

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