Izolyatsia's collection started long before the institution's founding moment. Already in the 1990s Luba Michailova, who established Izolyatsia in 2010, launched a search for socialist realist paintings of the Donbas region. The search grew out of an almost accidental encounter with one of the canvases inconspicuously hung at one of Donetsk mining offices where Michailova, an emerging ambitious entrepreneur, was negotiating a contract. The canvas featuring a local industrial landscape lingered in the office of a once state-owned mining company from the Soviet times when it was customary to embellish working places with ideologically appropriate art. Hundreds of thousands of administrative buildings, factory canteens, assembly halls for work meetings and other spaces within the industrial environment throughout the Soviet Union would host artworks that narrated the glorious history of the state and acceptable modes of behavior of the Soviet subject. Some of these artworks featured motives typical for the overall Soviet culture. Others would be more region-specific. Soviet artists of the Donbas region developed a genre of the industrial landscape with its poeticized depictions of labor set up against the background of factory views.
By the mid 1990s when Michailova became aware of the Donbas region socialist realist tradition, most of these paintings fell out of the local art canon: the shadow of their ideological content obscured their aesthetic and historical value. They were deemed anachronistic and therefore unworthy of preserving. Thus collecting those artworks turned out to be an act of salvaging them from abandoned workers' clubs, factory canteens, and administrative offices. Overall, Michailova amassed 187 oil paintings and works on paper from the period. The oldest examples come from a Kharkiv artist Victor Mironenko who traveled to the Donbas region right after the Second World War in 1947 to witness and depict massive efforts of industrial restoration. The latest ones come from Vladimir Bauer, a local Donetsk artist who have been engaged in a form of non-official art practices such as cubism, still depicting industrial landscape of the region but using an art vocabulary alien for the socialist realist paradigm. Michailova's socialist realist collection contains exemplars that narrate the emergence, the high “style” as well as later transformations of the socialist realist tradition in its closing decade.
Thus when Izolyatsia was founded in 2010, the institution already possessed a number of artworks from the region. The institution's founding principle, that of site-specificity, corroborated with the previous interest in the regional art history. All the activities happening at Izolyatsia had to be generated for the people and with the people of Donetsk. The institution's art collecting followed the same premises: it would only acquire artworks that emerged through its art residencies, exhibition practices.or artists' collaborations.
From 2010 to 2014, the year when Izolyatsia was ousted out of its space by the pro-Russian terrorists who instigated an overall military conflict in Donbas, the foundation conducted three large scale residencies with both Ukrainian and international artists. All of the artworks generated through those residences entered Izolyatsia's collection. The highlights of that portion of the collection include large-scale paintings by the Ukrainian artists David Chichkan, Volodymyr Kuznetsov, Yurii Pikul, Hamlet Zinkovsky and APL315 from Izolyatsia 2.0 residency of 2010; photos of various scale and printing technique by Richard Ansett (UK), Nuno Barroso (Portugal), Marina Black (Canada), Marco Citron (Italy), Flavia Junqueira (Brazil), Natasha Pavlovska (Hungary-Russia), Sasha Kurmaz (Ukraine), and Alexander Strinadko (Ukraine) from Partly Cloudy residency of 2011 - 2012; and lastly Paul Chaney (UK), Elise Florenty & Marcel Türkowsky (France-Germany), Daniel Malone (New Zealand - Poland), Luísa Nóbrega (Brazil), and Alexei Salmanov (Ukraine) of Turborealism:Breaking Ground residency of 2012 – 2013.
Cai Guo-Qiang, a renowned Chinese artists, who spent several months at Izolyatsia in 2011 and created a series of gun-powder paintings and installations as a part of his immersive collaboration with the institution, agreed to host permanently his massive Nursery Rhymes installation at Izolyatsia's territory.
Some of the artworks, predominantly by Ukrainian artists, were purchased in conjunction with Izolyatsia's exhibitions in its Medpunkt space dedicated to featuring emerging artists. Among them are Masha Kulikovska's sculptures, Alexei Salmanov's photos, Zhanna Kadyrova's performative photographic object, and Luba Malikova's textile sculpture/installation from Gender in Izolyatsia: Seams of Patriarchy and Identity Tailoring.
Besides supporting emerging Ukrainian artists, Izolyatsia also served its local community by bringing various international art practitioners who would create site-specific works in dialogue with the local communities and Izolyatsia's narrative and architectural history. During four years of its Donetsk period, Izolyatsia featured and acquired into its collection works by Kader Attia (France), Daniel Buren (France), Leandro Erlich (Argentina), Moataz Nasr (Egypt), Hans Op de Beeck (Belgium), and Pascale Marthine Tayou (Cameroon – France).
Gifts or purchases from the artists who collaborated with the institution through its various educational and social programs constitute a separate but quite significant category, among them are artworks by Pavlo Makov, Roman Minin, Hamlet Zinkovsky, Ivan Semesuik, Zhanna Kadyrova (all Ukrainian), Andrei Loginov (Belarus – Germany), Alexander Nekrashevich (Belarus), Eduardo Srur (Brazil), Zhang Huan (China) and others.
Unfortunately, a significant part of the collection was lost during the military seizure of Izolyatsia's premises by the pro-Russian separatists in June 2014. The foundation managed to evacuate some part of its collection during the very first day of the invasion when the terrorists allowed to carry out from the territory everything they deemed insignificant and non-artists. The next day Izolyatsia's gate did not open for the members of the team who attempted to continue evacuating the foundation's belongings. Moreover, many of Izolyatsia's significant art pieces could not be transported from its territory in the first place as they were created as an integral part of its architectural structures, according to the site-specific principles. Those are installations and large scale embedded objects by Daniel Buren (France), Cai Guo-Qiang (China), Leandro Erlich (Argentina), Kader Attia (France), Pascale Marthine Tayou (Cameroon-France), Zhanna Kadyrova and Hamlet Zinkovsky (Ukraine) and others. Izolyatsia is in the process of compiling a list of its lost artworks. A considerable number of artists who have previously collaborated with foundation are helping Izolyatsia to either restore some of the lost pieces or substitute them with their new works.
Izolyatsia is extremely grateful to its family of creative people who have enriched its programming with their presence and willingness to share their skill, knowledge and passions, and who in the time of tribulation support the foundation and replenish its lost collection.
Lastly, Izolyatsia's very first artifact, a metal deer mounted on top of the slag heap by one of the miners of the original mining complex around which Izolyatsia's factory was built in 1955, is, unfortunately, irreplaceable
Izolyatsia's doors in Donetsk still remain close.