Russia owes an exceptional treasure trove of art to the collectors Sergei Shchukin and Ivan Morozov. Their collections of modern European art were appropriated by the state after the October Revolution and divided between the Pushkin Museum in Moscow and the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg in 1948. As a result, a building adjacent to the main Pushkin Museum holds galleries filled with masterpieces by Cézanne, Monet and Degas as well as works by Gauguin, van Gogh, Matisse and Picasso for visitors to admire. Lovers of the old masters can indulge their passion in the main building. The Pushkin Museum also regularly hosts temporary exhibitions well worth seeing.
The state-owned Tretyakov Gallery is the place to learn about Russian art history. From 12th-century icon painting to the masterpieces of the late 19th century, this is an invitation to delve into the cultures, landscapes, myths, fairy tales and tragedies of the nation that inspired “War and Peace”. The paintings by Ilya Repin and Ivan Aivazovsky are especially impressive.
Tretyakov Gallery on Krymsky Val
Icons of a different kind are on display here: the masterpieces of the Russian avant-garde. Including what might be considered the most important modern work of art along with Picasso’s “Demoiselles d’Avignon”: Kazimir Malevich’s legendary “Black Square” from 1915. On your knees, art lovers! Wassily Kandinsky, Kazimir Malevich, Vladimir Tatlin, Alexander Rodchenko, Natalia Goncharova, Liubov Popova and her fellow artists, many of them women (!), were revolutionaries who reinvented art 100 years ago. The magnificent pictures of the new world they aspired to create are now displayed here. In contrast, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union’s visions of a socialist paradise can be viewed on the museum’s lower level. Alexander Deineka proves that it is possible to paint powerful images even under censorship.
The metro stations were the opera houses of the Soviet Union. Some of them are true works of art. Not to be missed are the ceiling mosaics of the Mayakovskaya, a metro station dating back to 1938 on the Zamoskvoretskaya Line (also called the Green Line or Line 2), and the sculptures by Matvey Manizer in Partizanskaya station (built in 1944) honouring the Soviet partisans. Nowhere else in the world is going underground more rewarding.
Gorky Park is Moscow’s “Central Park”. Besides all sorts of attractions, it also offers art and culture. The Garage, a centre for contemporary art founded by Dasha Zhukova and located in a building renovated by Dutch star architect Rem Koolhaas, is particularly worth a visit. A trendy young crowd gathers here to see exhibitions, films and performances by Russian and international artists.
Moscow Museum of Modern Art
The MMOMA collects, exhibits and communicates modern and contemporary art in four different historical buildings. It is a great place to see retrospectives of works by Russian artists and discover curiosities. Visitors are sure to find sculptures by Zurab Tsereteli, creator of the giant monument of Peter the Great. With a bit of luck, the astonishing paintings of Georgian national hero Niko Pirosmani, the “Henri Rousseau of the East”, will be on display, too.
Not far from the Pushkin Museum is this interesting institution, directed by the dedicated curator and film-maker Olga Sviblova. The programme focuses on the art of photography in all its forms and often holds parallel exhibitions, some of them including other media. There is always something new waiting to be discovered.
Konstantin Melnikov was a brilliant architect of the avant-garde. His studio and residence is one of the finest specimens of modern architecture in the world. Architecture fans are said to have multiple orgasms when visiting. Caution: The building is only accessible on guided tours that must be booked in advance on the Shchusev State Museum of Architecture website.
Ekaterina Cultural Foundation
Stella Art Foundation
In Moscow, numerous wealthy art patrons have established private art institutions; we particularly recommend the following: Not far from the Bolshoi Theatre, art collectors Ekaterina and Vladimir Semenikhin founded an art house in 2002 that regularly hosts contemporary art exhibitions. ekaterina-fondation.ru
Stella Kesaeva has built an extensive collection of nonconformist art of the Soviet era which she presents in her gallery. safmuseum.org
In Artibus is a private exhibition space founded by Inna Bazhenova, publisher of the renowned “The Art Newspaper”. inartibus.org
Winzavod – Centre for Contemporary Art
A dozen galleries as well as workshops and cafés have found a home in the historical halls of a former winery. Visitors can inspect the studio of Aidan Salakhova, the uncrowned queen of the Moscow art scene. The joint exhibitions are an excellent opportunity to get to know local artists.
Of course, a trip to Moscow wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Red Square with Lenin’s mausoleum and Saint Basil’s Cathedral. The cultural, historical and political heart of Russia lies just beyond the adjacent walls on a hill overlooking the river that gave the city its name. The Moscow Kremlin is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and museum. The citadel’s palaces and churches house the state regalia of sovereigns, tsars and presidents who have ruled here for close to 1,000 years as well as the church treasures of their close associates, the Orthodox patriarchs. Among the 60,000 exhibits, the crown jewels, weapons and magnificent carriages are particularly impressive.
Special thanks to the StandArt Hotel, Moscow, a member of designhotels.com
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