As we went to press with the March print edition of The Art Newspaper on 23 February, Russian forces were encircling Ukraine. The next day, Thursday 24 February, Russian president Vladmir Putin ordered an invasion. As I write now, there is full-blown war in Ukraine, a war that has already had a devastating impact on the Ukrainian people and the civilisation they hold dear, and which so many are prepared to die for.
Where does art and culture stand in the midst of such an unjustifiable act of Russian military aggression and the terrible human suffering it has inflicted? The media, quite rightly, has given saturation coverage to the battles on the ground and the bombardment of Ukrainian cities, with the resulting refugee crisis. The Art Newspaper’s role is to report on the conflict’s impact on heritage, art and culture, which is an integral part of this terrifying picture.
“In our age,” as the poet W.H. Auden memorably wrote, “the mere making of a work of art is a political act”—it is about individuality and freedom of expression, it is about what it is to be human, it can teach us how to feel.
I should stress, too, The Art Newspaper’s editorial freedom and independence, which carries great responsibility. We have covered global conflicts from a cultural perspective for more than 30 years, and we will continue to strive to make our coverage truthful, informative, illuminating and impactful.
Our remit as a media organisation is clear: culture can build bridges, but it can also man the barricades. We stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine—and their vital arts and culture.