Russian Modern art collection split by the Soviets to be reunited in Paris

Works amassed by Sergei Shchukin—once held in Moscow’s State Museum of New Western Art—will be shown together again at the Foundation Louis Vuitton

by Sophia Kishkovsky  |  8 February 2016
Russian Modern art collection split by the Soviets to be reunited in Paris
Last year the Hermitage loaned Henri Matisse's The Dance (1909), originally commissioned by Sergei Shchukin, to the Fondation Louis Vuitton for the exhibition Keys to a Passion
The collection of early Modern masterpieces amassed by Sergei Shchukin—the wealthy tsarist-era businessman and arts patron—will be reunited in an exhibition at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris this autumn. The works, including examples by Matisse and Picasso, were split during the Soviet regime and are now housed in the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg and the State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow.

News of the exhibition was revealed in Moscow on Friday at a news conference held by Zelfira Tregulova, the director of Moscow’s State Tretyakov Gallery, announcing her institution’s upcoming exhibition plans.

“One of the most outstanding projects in which we will participate is an exhibition in Paris that will open in the fall at the Louis Vuitton Foundation,” Tregulova said according to the official Ria Novosti news agency. Tregulova added that the show will also look at how two private collections—Shchukin’s and his friendly rival Ivan Morozov’s—influenced the formation of the Russian avant-garde, she added.

The Art Newspaper understands that the exhibition will bring dozens of paintings to Paris and that an agreement will be signed in Moscow this week. Tregulova was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying that the Tretyakov and two or three Russian regional museums would loan works that reflect the “reaction of Russian artists” to French modernism.

In 2013, Irina Antonova, then the director of the Pushkin museum, demanded that the collections be reunited in Moscow, falling afoul of Mikhail Piotrovsky, the director of the Hermitage. Antonova even raised the question with Russian President Vladimir Putin during his annual live television question-and-answer show, when she asked him to rebuild the State Museum of New Western Art. This was originally created in Moscow in 1923 to house the Shchukin and Morozov collections, but was shut down by Stalin in 1948 on ideological grounds. Antonova retired several months later and became the Pushkin’s honorary president.

Dimitri Ozerkov, the head of the Hermitage’s contemporary art department, said last year that the museum would display some of its Shchukin and Morozov holdings at its planned Moscow branch, under construction at the former ZIL auto plant. In 2014, during the opening of the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris, Piotrovsky signed a sponsorship agreement with LVMH that that set out terms for “mutually beneficial cooperation” with the luxury brand.

Marina Loshak, the director of the Pushkin, told reporters last December that cooperation with the Hermitage is essential and hinted at major joint international projects to come. “We are planning everything together and taking a number of steps together, and this is understandable, because we can’t live without the Hermitage, without its collection and our common historical past connected with this collection,” she said according to the Tass news agency. “There are many projects that we are planning to do together outside of our museums.”

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