Anne Imhof releases prints to support Ukraine war relief

Leading German artist Anne Imhof discusses her latest work ‘Youth’, the war in Ukraine, and working with Circa on a 24-hour print sale to raise funds for humanitarian relief

Anne Imhof Youth print sale circa
Still from Youth by Anne Imhof
(Image credit: © CIRCA)

Anne Imhof was in Moscow, putting the finishing touches on her solo exhibition at Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, when Russia invaded Ukraine. Appalled, the German artist immediately left the country. She abandoned her show, as well as her hopes for advancing a message of freedom and peace in a land where this was desperately needed.

‘I believed that this work could reach a younger audience in Russia,’ she recalls. ‘I saw so many queer kids there who were super excited about this show. It was overwhelming. It broke my heart to leave without delivering what I promised. My art will never be the same again.’

Youth by Anne Imhof for circa

Still from Youth by Anne Imhof

(Image credit: © CIRCA)

The video footage that Imhof had filmed for the Garage show didn’t reach its intended audience, but she has nonetheless been determined to put it to good use. Now, as the war reaches its one-year mark, the footage has been edited into a work titled Youth. It is on view this month on a series of public screens in eight major world cities, as part of a collaboration with London-based digital art and culture platform Circa. 

Youth begins with close-up footage of horses on a snowy field – grazing, nuzzling one another, then breaking into a gallop, moving majestically through a landscape of denuded trees. The sense of splendid desolation is accentuated by the soundtrack – the aria Erbarme dich, mein Gott, from Johann Sebastian Bach’s St Matthew Passion.

As the music swells, we realise that Youth was not filmed in the wilderness, but rather amid monumental Soviet apartment blocks. Specifically Severnoye Chertanavo, a social housing project at the edge of Moscow which had been a showpiece for urban planning initiatives under Nikita Khrushchev. ‘It reflected belief in progress,’ Imhof says.

‘I was thinking about the wild Przewalski horses thriving after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, which created the ‘exclusion zone’ in northern Ukraine. After the invasion of Ukraine, the images and the significance of the deserted housing blocks changed. The almost Marlboro advertisement-like imagery became this farewell.’

Youth by Anne Imhof

Youth, by Anne Imhof, displayed as part of Circa's programme on the CVISION – SOGO outdoor screen in Hong Kong

(Image credit: © CIRCA)

There is not a single person to be seen. The notion of a world without humans – more haunting now than ever, as the threat of nuclear war persists – prompted Imhof to ponder the possibility of animals taking over: ‘birds existing in flocks, horses with their herd, their bodies powerful and vulnerable. Living through one day and one night. What if this means hope? What if this means freedom? What if this means peace?’

Imhof is the latest in a roster of renowned artists to partner with Circa, following the likes of Yoko Ono, Marina Abramović, Ai Weiwei and Shirin Neshat. Josef O’Connor, the platform’s founder and artistic director, credits her ‘rare ability to create works of art that reflects the hopes and troubles of our times’.

Anne Imhof marking the launch of the #Youth24 charity print sale at Pendry West Hollywood on LA's Sunset Boulevard

Anne Imhof marking the launch of the #Youth24 charity print sale at Pendry West Hollywood on LA's Sunset Boulevard

(Image credit: Chelsea Lauren, © CIRCA)

On her part, Imhof particularly hopes to inspire the youth of today: ‘I want to make art for them, for a generation that is asked not to speak up and expected just to dive into capitalism’s cradle. My work is about things that are not openly talked about. I want to give access to something that is deep inside of us, without showing a human being that one can project onto.’

While the version of Youth usually broadcast on Circa’s public screens is three minutes long, a ten-minute extended version will be shown today (24 February 2023), the anniversary of the invasion. The screening will be followed by a 24-hour print fundraiser, with full proceeds going to the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund, to aid youth and countless other war victims.

Anne Imhof Circa Youth

Youth, by Anne Imhof, one of 24 prints on sale from 20:23 GMT on 24 February 2023 to aid the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund

(Image credit: © CIRCA)

Available in an edition of 24, the lithograph prints feature billowing technicolour clouds (a recurring motif in Imhof’s work) in turquoise and bright red. The three-dimensional effect, eerie yet invigorating, is achieved by superimposing four separate colour screens. Beyond hand-signing the prints, the artist has personalised each of them with a unique hand-painted detail.

‘Russia will never be the same after Putin cast this cruelty onto the people of Ukraine, and with that onto his own people. The war is bringing so much pain to people and their families, and so many deaths,’ Imhof says.

‘I hope the funds generated with Circa enable the United Nations CERF to provide aid and support to those in Ukraine. And I hope, too, that this war ends soon.’

Imhof’s prints are available for 24 hours from 20:23 GMT on 24 February 2023, following the screening of the extended version of Youth at London’s Piccadilly Lights. Limited edition of 24, £6,500 + VAT, with full proceeds going to the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund. 

A full list of public screens can be found on

Imhof’s collaboration with Circa coincides with the largest presentation of the artist’s work in the US to date, ‘Emo’ at Sprüth Magers LA, until 6 May 2023,

TF Chan is a former editor of Wallpaper* (2020-23), where he was responsible for the monthly print magazine, planning, commissioning, editing and writing long-lead content across all pillars. He also played a leading role in multi-channel editorial franchises, such as Wallpaper’s annual Design Awards, Guest Editor takeovers and Next Generation series. He aims to create world-class, visually-driven content while championing diversity, international representation and social impact. TF joined Wallpaper* as an intern in January 2013, and served as its commissioning editor from 2017-20, winning a 30 under 30 New Talent Award from the Professional Publishers’ Association. Born and raised in Hong Kong, he holds an undergraduate degree in history from Princeton University.