Meet the experts: Yuliya Sorokina

Kazakh creator on the region's unique approach

The Kazakh curator

Yuliya Sorokina
Asia Art +

You’ve studied and curated art across the world in locations including London, Berlin and Istanbul. What do you think of the profile of art from Central Asia and the Caucuses and specifically Kazakhstan?
I perceive [Central Asian] artists as professionals, but they have a unique quality, which is related to working in post-Soviet countries. In Europe and the United States it is prestigious to be a conteamporary artist, but here in Central Asia it is still a marginal profession. Artists here do not have any privileges – only problems. No favour, no money and even sometimes trouble with the law because contemporary art can be quite critical, especially to the authorities. So, to be an artist here it's not only a profession – it's a fate. Yet, our artists have one important advantage – their life here is so problematic, that they have lots of themes for their art and they have a lot of motivation to change the world.

The city of Almaty has an almost European atmosphere. Do you think people understand what Kazakhstan is really like and do misconceptions affect how people view art from your country?
Yes, people mostly show a misunderstanding – they still have this cliché of the ‘mystical East’ and they are surprised to know that we have a mostly European way of life, simply with Eastern accents. That's why one of the main aims of our artists is to show a real contemporary face of our countries. I remember we did an interview in the UK asking people if they know something about Kazakhstan and the main answer was, Borat.

What do you think of Art Dubai and the city of Dubai in general in comparison to other cities and events you’ve visited all around the world?
I see Dubai as a quickly developing and new art market. I am fascinated by the cultural efforts which are happening. And even if some things I see in quite a critical way, nevertheless, I hope Dubai breathes new blood into the world of art.

Who are the main Kazakh artists you included in your selection for Art Dubai and what criteria did you set yourself when choosing the work?
I proposed a huge list of art works and artists and I am happy that Art Dubai included the most of this list on the Marker programme. The main Kazakh artists in my programme are Sergey Maslov and Yuriy Dvinyaninov. They are gone unfortunately, but they are on display as they fit into the main theme of Marker – portraying the art of Central Asia. Other contemporary artists are Georgiy Tryakin-Bukharov, Saken Narynov, Yelena and Viktor Vorobyevs, Said Atabekov and Alexander Ugay. We also included a few artists from Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, as my foundation and me personally prefer to work with the region, not only Kazakhstan. They are: Valeriy Ruppel and Ulan Djaparov from Kyrgyzstan and Alexander Barkovskiy from Uzbekistan. As I said already I tried to show different kinds of portraits of the region and represent its variety. I like to work with different mediums and all artists, which I choose reflect that, working with paint, graphics, sculpture, photo and video. I also like artists who have a bright personal approach and are enthusiastic and inquisitive.

How did you become involved in Art Dubai?
I got the invitated to take part in Art Dubai a few years ago actually. Two years ago I met Bettina Klein [Exhibitor Relations Manager at Art Dubai] in London and we started think how it would be possible to exhibit here. Then in the middle of last year Payam Sharifi (a member of the Slavs & Tatars panel) found my project – Digital Archive ( interesting and invited me to participate. It's an honour and pleasure for me to be coming here.
Head to Marker booth A 2 for the exhibition.

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