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Step into the light: Moscow's Pushkin museum goes back to basics for bold new exhibition

The positioning of the artwork honours the museum's founders Ivan Tsvetayev and Roman Klein
The positioning of the artwork honours the museum's founders Ivan Tsvetayev and Roman Klein   -   Copyright  Vyacheslav Prokofyev/TASS via Reuters Connect
By Shannon McDonagh  & Reuters

The Uffizi, The Tate, The Louvre - art museums across Europe are often coated with stacked gallery walls and rich, deeply coloured backdrops.

Moscow's largest museum, the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, is looking to change that by honouring its founders in a permanent exhibition that embraces space and brings older paintings into the light.

They have rearranged the exhibition's halls in order to recreate the original setting and lighting set up by the museum’s founders, Ivan Tsvetayev and Roman Klein.

The paintings hang low as a result of a special idea put forward by French set designer Patrick Hourcade, who worked with the Pushkin to achieve this arrangement.

Vyacheslav Prokofyev/TASS via Reuters Connect
Pushkin's new space lets in plenty of lightVyacheslav Prokofyev/TASS via Reuters Connect

All the paintings are displayed at an average level of up to 150 cm, bringing them lower and centralising them with the avoidance of a second, even third, row of paintings.

This style of display is common with "the old masters", while the Pushkin's latest move realigns more with the conventions of displaying modern art.

Pre-pandemic visitor levels were at record highs for the gallery, with 1.2 million visitors annually, the maximum amount the museum can accommodate.

Vyacheslav Prokofyev/TASS via Reuters Connect
Each painting has been lit to emulate the conditions of the museum's original setupVyacheslav Prokofyev/TASS via Reuters Connect

"We are trying to return to Klein's original architecture, a museum full of light, not with dusty varnished things but with pure art, clear daylight that mixes together with artificial lights, where fantastic architecture gives this sensation of lightness, a cloud you find yourself in," explains Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts Director, Marina Loshak.

"The museum was planned as a great visionary dream, of a man who wanted to imagine a perfect museum with a perfect art, located in an inaccessible world," she adds.

Alexander Zemlianichenko/The Associated Press
The Pushkin's grand exterior viewAlexander Zemlianichenko/The Associated Press

The Pushkin is famous for its collection of over 700,000 individual pieces of art, including paintings, drawings, archaeological works, sculptures, and photographs.

It hosts as many as 80 exhibitions a year. Along with this permanent rearrangement to part of the museum's space, it has just launched an exploration of Italian Futurism, featuring masterpieces from famed art fanatic Gianni Mattioli's collection.

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The museum lost its director of 52 years, Irina Antonova, in 2020Reuters Connect

Last year, the Pushkin lost its longtime director, Irina Antonova, to illness at the age of 98. She first began working for the museum under Joseph Stalin's leadership of Soviet Russia and was best known for bringing the Mona Lisa to Moscow in 1974 despite mixed attitudes to displaying "nonconformist" European art.

Tickets to the museum can bepurchased onlinefor €6 full price or €3 for concessions.