Home Today Irina Antonova, Grande Dame of Russian Museum World, Dies at 98

Irina Antonova, Grande Dame of Russian Museum World, Dies at 98


MOSCOW — Irina A. Antonova, a commanding artwork historian who led the Pushkin State Museum of Nice Arts in Moscow for greater than a half century, used it to deliver outdoors tradition to remoted Soviet residents and turned it into a serious cultural establishment, died on Tuesday in that metropolis. She was 98.

The trigger was coronary heart failure difficult by a coronavirus an infection, the museum said.

Ms. Antonova steered the museum via the isolationist and inflexible cultural insurance policies of the Soviet Union and into the interval following the autumn of Communism. Lately she expanded it to adjoining buildings — typically angering their tenants — to accommodate mushrooming exhibitions.

From early on, Ms. Antonova used her inexhaustible power to construct connections with the world’s main museums. In 1974, she introduced Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa from the Louvre in Paris. Lots of of hundreds of individuals lined as much as see it, the one queues the Soviet authorities was pleased with on the time. Many knew that with the nation’s borders shut, it could be the only alternative to see that well-known work throughout their lifetimes.

She additional opened the world to the Soviet folks with exhibitions of 100 work from the Metropolitan Museum of Artwork in New York and of the treasures of Tutankhamen.

On Ms. Antonova’s watch, the Pushkin museum additionally exhibited summary and avant-garde works by Russian and worldwide artists. That was typically unimaginable in a rustic the place an unofficial artwork present was as soon as damaged up with the assistance of a bulldozer, and whose chief on the time, Nikita S. Khrushchev, whereas visiting an exhibition of latest Soviet artwork in 1962, shouted that some summary work had been made with a “donkey’s tail” and that even his grandson may do higher.

In 1981, the museum hosted “Moscow-Paris, 1900-1930,” a landmark exhibition that combined works by French artists like Matisse and Picasso along with highlights of the Russian avant-garde of the time, together with works by Chagall, Malevich and Kandinsky. The exhibition confirmed how Russian artists slot in nicely with Western European developments and the way they’d typically helped kind them.

Because of her Bolshevik father, Ms. Antonova had the pedigree that made it simpler for her to barter with Soviet cultural bureaucrats. Utilizing her attraction and wit, she was able to transform what was nonetheless largely a set of plaster casts of well-known statues right into a complete museum worthy of a serious capital.

“We had been allowed to do issues that had been by no means allowed somewhere else,” Ms. Antonova mentioned in a documentary film devoted to the museum’s a centesimal anniversary. “It was very straightforward to ban. They didn’t even need to do a lot, whereas we had been nonetheless allowed to do one thing.”

After the Soviet collapse, she continued her quest of bringing Russia nearer to the skin world with exhibitions of works by Joseph Beuys and Alberto Giacometti, amongst others.

She additionally moved to uncover artwork treasures that had been seized by the Soviet military in Germany throughout World Conflict II and hidden within the museum’s depositaries. Critics, nevertheless, faulted her for transferring slowly and even for failing to acknowledge their existence. However Ms. Antonova argued that it might have been unattainable to behave throughout the Soviet interval.

In a message of condolence upon her loss of life, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said Ms. Antonova deserved skilled and public acclaim, having “served Russian tradition with inspiration” as a “devoted knowledgeable, fanatic and educator.”

Irina Aleksandrovna was born in Moscow on March 20, 1922. Her father, Aleksandr A. Antonov, was an electrician who turned the pinnacle of a analysis institute; her mom, Ida M. Heifits, labored in a printing home.

Irina moved along with her household to Germany in 1929 when her father was despatched to work on the Soviet Embassy. She lived there for 4 years, studying German and buying a style for European tradition.

Through the warfare, she skilled as a nurse and cared for Soviet pilots, lots of whom had been severely injured, in Moscow hospitals.

She graduated from Moscow State College and was despatched to work on the Pushkin museum shortly earlier than the warfare ended. The museum was based in 1912 by rich retailers; when she arrived, the constructing had no heating, and its glass roof had collapsed throughout bombings.

Olga L. Sviblova, a pal and director of the Multimedia Artwork Museum in Moscow, mentioned in an interview that Ms. Antonova had delivered to the museum “a deep conviction that tradition and artwork haven’t any borders: non permanent, geographical, nationwide.”

“She defended these convictions beneath Stalin, Khrushchev, Brezhnev, Gorbachev and throughout the 30 years that she lived and labored in new Russia,” Ms. Sviblova added.

In 1961, Ms. Antonova turned the primary lady to be appointed director of the museum, a put up she held till 2013, when she was named its president and gave up day-to-day administration to focus on strategic growth. Her general tenure in numerous roles spanned 75 years.

Throughout Soviet instances, Ms. Antonova was fortunate to have the ability to journey, however she mentioned that she typically cried when leaving a culturally wealthy Italian metropolis, realizing that it could be her final time there.

Along with the acclaimed Soviet pianist Sviatoslav Richter, Ms. Antonova started internet hosting a collection of live shows contained in the museum’s expansive halls each December. The live shows, known as December Evenings, stay among the most sought-after performances in Moscow.

Her husband, the artwork historian Yevsey I. Rotenberg, died in 2011. She is survived by her son, Boris.

She was succeeded as museum director by Marina D. Loshak, who mentioned, “It’s laborious to think about the Pushkin museum with out Irina Antonova.”


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