In recent art world news, over 100 modern masterpieces from the art collection of Russian industrialist Sergei Shchukin will be on display at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris in a landmark exhibition running from October 22, 2016 through February 20, 2017. The exhibition entitled “Icons of Modern Art. The Shchukin Collection” reunites nearly half of the 275 works that once were on display in Shchukin’s Moscow mansion, which opened as a museum in 1908.
The collection was integrated into the State Museum of Modern Western Art after nationalization by the Bolsheviks in 1918. Stalin ultimately shut down the museum as “ideologically inadequate” in the mid-20th century and considered Shchukin’s art collection “bourgeois”. The industrialist’s works were eventually divided between the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow, where they languished in storage rooms for decades until the 1970s.
Shchukin’s desire for then-radical works by such artists as Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso was said to have rivaled that of the Stein family. The industrialist forged relationships with leading dealers and artists at the time on his frequent trips to Paris between the late 19th century and the early 20th century.
Anne Baldassari, former director of the Musée Picasso in Paris and organizer of the exhibition at the Fondation Louis Vuitton, says that the Shchukin collection is “one of the great pioneering collections that has never received a comprehensive presentation” and “[a]ll curators working on the Modern period dream about staging a Shchukin exhibition.”
The exhibition was reported to have been made possible in part by “political will” after decades of dissension between Shchukin’s descendants and the Russian state.
“A selection of works by Kazimir Malevich, Aleksandr Rodchenko and Vladimir Tatlin, among others, traces the collection’s impact on the emerging Russian avant-garde.” According to Baldassari, “[p]ictures often went from Picasso’s and Matisse’s studios to Moscow—no one had seen them in Paris. [This was] Modern art as it was happening, when the paint was still fresh.”
To view select highlights of the exhibition, see The Modern Art Stalin Did Not Want Russians To See published online by The Art Newspaper on October 19, 2016.