Monaco artist who was suspected spy to show octopus sculptures beneath London Bridge

By Ben Miller | 09 January 2015

Ukraine-born Monaco painter to show octopi beneath London Bridge despite lacking "Yankee dollars"

A photo of a strange anatomical-looking sculpture made out of pink bits of octopus
Zoïa Skoropadenko, from the Torso series© Zoïa Skoropadenko
Taught by one of Ukraine’s most revered tutors, Grigory Sinitsa, from the age of five, Zoïa Skoropadenko was always destined to be an artist, although the path she took turned out to be less orthodox than its beginnings: learning at the National Art School and the Institute of Fine Arts, her studies came to an abrupt end at the age of 12, when the fall of the Soviet Union, she says, made it “impossible” for the less rich to enrol in art education.

Skoropadenko became a leading student journalist, but was “unceremoniously” kicked out of Lviv National University on suspicion of being a spy. Despite lacking the necessary readies - foreseen by the artist as “a spy’s bank account filled with Yankee dollars” - she hitchhiked around Europe en route to a star-studded destination.

A photo of a strange anatomical-looking sculpture made out of pink bits of octopus
© Zoïa Skoropadenko
“If you are not the daughter of an oligarch, or a trained and funded CIA operative, it isn’t easy for a young artist to make ends meet in Monaco,” she says.

“However, the world’s most glamorous playground needs multi-lingual translation.”

Speaking eight languages helped. Translating for yacht brokers during transactions with enterprising eastern Europeans, Skoropadenko helped Interpol arrest and interrogate some of their targets. In 2008, when times toughened during the economic crisis, the artist was given a bag of octopus for lunch by a local fisherman, which she decided to turn into a series of sculptures rather than eat.

Four years later, TORSO appeared in London. “It is my nice winter tradition to start my art season from exhibiting in January and get a bit of scandal,” she says.

“The first exhibition was held in Monaco. I got great reviews and few un-understanding audiences.

“Next January, the exhibition had been invited to Council of Europe. There, the success and scandal became European.”

Continuing her tendency towards flash exhibitions, Skoropadenko’s latest show, in the Shooting Range of the Royal Stock Exchange Rifle Club, beneath London Bridge, is a blink-and-miss three-day illustration of her techniques, in which she sculpts and then paints the work, inspired by the Greek ideals of beauty and the search for perfection.

  • Zoïa Skoropadenko's Torso is at the shooting gallery, Royal Stock Exchange Rifle Club Shooting Range, 1A London Bridge, London, from January 20-22 2015. Visit zoia-art.com and follow the artist on Twitter @zoiaskoropadenk.

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A photo of a strange anatomical-looking sculpture made out of pink bits of octopus
© Zoïa Skoropadenko
A photo of a strange anatomical-looking sculpture made out of pink bits of octopus
© Zoïa Skoropadenko
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