Over 600,000 people have already seen the art exhibition in just ten weeks. It includes paintings by artists of the calibre of Picasso, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Matisse and Gauguin. They are part of a private collection of 250 paintings put together by wealthy textile merchant, Sergei Shchukin, before the Bolshevik Revolution, and have never before been seen outside Russia.
Shchukin picked up items for his amazing collection on trips to Paris before World War I. He actually brought Henri Matisse to Moscow in 1911 to decorate his palatial home. He also commissioned two of the artist’s most important works, “Dance” and “Music.”
After Shchukin fled from Russia to France following the revolution, Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin signed a decree to expropriate the works. Joseph Stalin, leader of the Soviet Union, then scattered the collection to museums in Moscow and St Petersburg, and decreed that some of the greatest masterpieces of 20th Century art were “bourgeois and cosmopolitan.”
The exhibition also includes major pieces loaned by the Tretyakov State Gallery in Moscow and the Russian Museum in St Petersburg. These include items from the Russian avant-garde suprematism movement, which focuses on basic geometric forms, such as circles, squares, lines, and rectangles painted in a limited range of colours. There are also pieces from the constructivism movement, which denotes a style in which mechanical objects are combined into abstract mobile forms.
The show has been curated by the former head of the city’s Picasso Museum, Anne Baldassar, and is the fruit of years of negotiations between LVMH tycoon Bernard Arnault and the Russian authorities.
The exhibition hours for Icons of Modern Art: The Shchukin Collection are being expanded to try to cope with the huge demand, opening seven days a week until eleven pm in February and one am in the final week in March. The gallery will also provide breakfast every morning for visitors in that final week when doors open at seven am.