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Display of rare impressionist masterpieces from Russian collector wows Parisian art lovers

October 26, 2016, 8:46 UTC+3 PARIS
A report at the homepage of the Elysee Palace said President Francois Hollande had already had a tour of the display
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© Dominique Bouten/TASS

PARIS, October 26. /TASS/. More than 17,000 people have visited the exhibition ‘The Icons of Modern Art. The Shchukin Collection’ that opened for the public at Louis Vuitton foundation last Saturday. 

This display offers the first-ever opportunity for the French and for numerous tourists to see the highlights of a collection gathered at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century by the Russian collector and arts patron Sergei Shchukin.

The organizers hope the exhibition that will stay open through to the end of next February will host a record one million visitors.

A report at the homepage of the Elysee Palace said President Francois Hollande had had a tour of the display.

Bernard Arnault, the owner of Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy (LVMH) and Christian Dior companies told TASS earlier ‘The Icons of Modern Art’ had every chance to become one of the biggest events of the current cultural season in Paris.

"We believe the exhibition that we have been making up for two and a half years in full mutual understanding with Russia counterparts will host a record one million visitors over the four months of its duration," he said.

Sergei Ivanovich Shchukin, a Russian entrepreneur with the main business operations concentrated in the sphere of textiles, was one of the first collectors in the world to start buying the canvasses of Impressionist painters, who were often criticized and misunderstood by fellow-painters and society in general at the time. 

The collection is currently split between Russia’s two biggest museums displaying European Art - the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow and the State Hermitage in St. Petersburg.

The list of canvasses exhibited in Paris features Monet’s ‘Breakfast on the Grass,’ Matisse’s ‘Harmony in Red’, aka ‘The Red Room’ that master painted as a decorative panel for the dining room in Sergei Shchukin’s mansion in Moscow, Gauguin’s ‘Are You Jealous?’, and Henri Rousseau’s ‘Fight between a Tiger and a Buffalo’.

The Pushkin Museum and the Hermitage Museum have loaned 65 canvasses for the exhibition each. The 130 paintings on display make up almost a half of the Shchukin collection.

To show the influence of French art on the development of Russian avant-garde art, augmenting the highlights of the collection are about thirty works of Russian painters from the Tretyakov Art Gallery in Moscow, the Amsterdam City Museum and the New York Museum of Modern Art.

"Already now arts reviewers call this exhibition the most important cultural event of the year in Europe. I personally think it's also a very big political event, as it shows that friendship between people, understanding and respect for one another are capable of creating masterpieces that live on over centuries," Russian Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky said at the gala opening ceremony last Friday.

He singled out the fact it was held at the LVMH, saying the venue was highly emblematic, as Shchukin who had business in the sphere of textiles was closely related to the world of fashion.

"Quite possibly, it was thanks to this business that he had a perfect sense for color," the minister said. "It gave him an amazing foresight in determining the future status and value of Impressionist art."

"Shchukin was a genuine collector who built his collection as a genuine work of art arising from a wish to set up a big public museum in Russia, not as an object for investment.

Medinsky also said the paintings taken to Paris have been insured for 3.5 billion euro. He indicated however that the sum could not reflect the real value of the collection, which could be established only if the works of comparable quality and having the same historic significance appeared on the market.

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