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Nan Golding wedding ceremony
The wedding of Nikita Kadan and AntiGonna, officiated by Nan GoldinPhotographs courtesy of ISOLARII

How this Ukrainian artist couple ended up getting married by Nan Goldin

The recently ordained artist officiated her first marriage – the whirlwind wedding of fellow artists Nikita Kadan and AntiGonna on the streets of Venice

Nan Goldin is even more romantic than we knew. For more than four decades, her images have immortalised private, ephemeral moments of intimacy, even as she’s continued to confront the messy, knotty complexity of relationships. As if to underscore how much she loves love, Goldin has just become ordained to officiate marriages. The artist was in Venice for the 59th Biennale when Ukrainian artist Nikita Kadan proposed to his girlfriend and fellow artist, AntiGonna, and Goldin stepped in to perform her first marriage ceremony for the pair on the eve of their dramatic and indefinite separation – before the bride took refuge in Paris and the groom was obliged to return to Ukraine.

Kadan was among the artists included in This is Ukraine: Defending Freedom alongside Maria Prymachenko, Tetyana Yablonska, and Lesia Khomenko. The exhibition, held at Venice’s Scuola Grande della Misericordia, features an installation of The War Diary, Yevgenia Belorusets’ powerful account of the Russian invasion. Goldin had initially become aware of Kadan – one of Ukraine’s rising art world stars – when she attended a reading of Beloruset’s diary in New York City, having followed its development online. These events all coalesced when The War Diary was then taken to Venice for the Biennale, exhibited alongside Nikita’s sculpture, and both works featured the book In The Face of War (published by ISOLARII to coincide with the Biennale).

Kadan had been granted an official dispensation to leave Ukraine for a period of ten days and would face jail if he failed to return. On the evening of his eighth day in Venice, he was invited to a dinner in which various art luminaries, including Nan Goldin, were in attendance. As the evening wore on, Kadan failed to show up. Towards the end of the meal, he arrived at the party and announced he’d been delayed because he’d proposed to his girlfriend, AntGonna – a controversial filmmaker and artist from Odessa. ISOLARII co-founder Sebastian Clark recalls, “Nan discreetly mentioned that she had been ordained last week in the Universal Life Church. She offered to marry them at once.”

It was 1.30 in the morning when Goldin told Nikita and the assembled group to meet her at the Accademia Bridge at noon the following day, assuring them, “I’ll have the vows.” According to Clark, “Nan put so much care and love into this spontaneous moment.” He recalls how the renowned artist spent the rest of the night researching wedding scenes in movies (including Woman of the Year, the 1942 film starring Katharine Hepburn) as she composed a set of vows to officiate a marriage ceremony for the first-ever time. 

“We woke up quite hungover and suddenly had a panic to fashion two rings,” says Clark, who had agreed to be the ring-bearer and best man. There followed a 20-minute dash around the centre of Venice, looking to find some appropriate rings, and culminating in the creation of makeshift wedding rings from a pair of antique spoons.

The wedding party gathered at the Accademia – one of the city’s busiest and most iconic landmarks. “Nan’s there with a marriage officiator license, which she just got the week before, kind of showing it around to everyone to make it official,” Clark tells Dazed. “And then a crowd starts to gather and someone shouts, ‘We love you, Nan!’ She was like, ‘Please go away. I’m officiating a wedding here.’ There was a lovely air of something about to happen.”

“I don’t want to call it a work of art, but it felt like a kind of art-making” – Sebastian Clark

India Ennenga, ISOLARII co-founder, elaborates: “The scene was amazing. There were six of us actually there for the wedding, and tourists were gathering and trying to figure out what was going on. Afterwards, Nikita and AntiGonna were just kissing on this bridge, completely in love, and this group of Italian schoolchildren came by and were fascinated by them. It was really charming and lovely. We managed to scrounge a bottle of champagne that we opened and then people were trying to kind of get in on the champagne and the kids were trying to sneak some a drink and it was really beautiful.” Clark muses, “I don’t want to call it a work of art, but it felt like a kind of art-making.” 

Take a look at the gallery above for a glimpse of images of Nikita Kadan and AntiGonna being married by Nan Goldin