Blockbuster Loan Exhibition of Russia's Prized Morozov Collection Is Still in Paris

  • February 27, 2022 17:13

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Cézanne’s “Still Life with a Curtain” (1892-94). State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg
Van Gogh’s “The Prison Courtyard” (1890). Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts

A major international exhibition, which opened in Paris last fall after being postponed three times due to COVID-19, offers a rare view of 200 masterpieces collected over a century ago by the Russian brothers, Mikhail and Ivan Morozov. As Russia invaded Ukraine last week, the exhibition of exceptional paintings from Russian museums⁠—one of the world's most valuable modern art collections⁠—remains on loan in France until, for now, an extended date of April 3, 2022.

On view across four floors of galleries at the Frank Gehry-designed Louis Vuitton Foundation, The Morozov Collection. Icons of Modern Art is the first loan ever of the collection outside of Russia since its creation at the turn of the 20th century

"Following its great success, the Fondation Louis Vuitton, in agreement with its partners, the State Hermitage Museum, the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts and the Tretyakov Gallery, has decided to extend the exhibition by five weeks," reads the museum's website, in an update that was made at an earlier date. (The show was formerly scheduled to end on Feb. 22, 2022, just a day before Russia attacked Ukraine, prompting an international outcry, sanctions and other measures.)

Curated by Anne Baldassari, the exhibition took years of organization and had "a colossal budget," reported the New York Times in September 2021. Negotiations for the loan show included Louis Vuitton Foundation assisting with restorations, and "required a colossal diplomatic effort, with assurances that French law would protect the Russian museums against any claims by the Morozovs’ descendants, and a personal signoff for the loans from President Vladimir V. Putin."

Along with Russian masters, the textile magnate-brothers astutely assembled a massive trove of Parisian avant-garde works by the likes of Gauguin, Monet, Van Gogh, and Picasso, and made Moscow a center of French modern art around 1900. With the October Revolution of 1918, their art was dispersed and became part for the national collection. Ivan Morozov then went into exile (his brother had died in 1903).

Under the Soviet state, several masterworks were long-ago sold from the Morozov collection including Van Gogh’s Café de Nuit (now in the Yale University collection). A federal appeals court in 2015 sided with Yale University to keep the estimated $200 million painting after Ivan Morozov's heir sought to claim it. Another work, Cézanne’s portrait of Madame Cézanne, is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In addition, some of the Morozovs' art was not loaned to Paris and remains in Russia, such as Van Gogh's Red vineyard in Arles, the only work the artist sold in his lifetime.

Valentin Serov, Portrait du collectionneur de la peinture moderne russe et francaise Ivan Abramovitch Morozov, Moscou (1910). Coll. Ivan Morozov, 1910. Galerie nationale Trétiakov, Moscou / The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Portrait of the Actress Jeanne Samary (1878). ©2021 State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg

Tags: european art

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