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Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts Turns 100

Google celebrates the centenary of the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts with a delicate Doodle

The impressive building of the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Volkhonka St., across the road from the restored Christ the Saviour Cathedral, was solemnly opened on May 31 (June 13), 1912. The video below from the Museum’s collection shows the Emperor Nicholas II visiting the museum and being greeted by Ivan Tsvetaev, the founder of the Museum and the father of the famous Russian poet, Marina Tsvetaeva.

The initial collection was based on the copies of antique sculptures from the Moscow State University, which are now exhibited in the halls of the Ancient Art Department. As for paintings, especially the invaluable pieces by Gaugin, Picasso, Matisse, Van Gogh, etc, these had been transferred from St. Petersburg museums. Still more works had either been bought or donated by private collectors, which tradition continues to this day. Only recently two private collectors donated to the Pushkin Museum a painting by Dirk Hals, The Merry Company (which apparently is a version of an earlier eponymous work by his elder brother, Frank), and the only surviving work of a little-known German artist, Adam Elias Borni who painted a trompe-l’oeil artwork featuring his colleague, another German painter Dietrich. The latter work was bought in Austria, and art historians may now be able to identify other works by Borni.

I don’t remember the first ever time I visited the Pushkin Museum, although I told you how once I spent nearly 6 hours in the cold February weather to attend an exhibition by Claude Monet. The space is the biggest problem the museum will have to address in the next 6 years. There is a special 2018 Agenda that seeks to add more buildings around the original edifice. I bet many citizens and visitors would give a lot not stop queueing outside the building for hours on end.

I do, however, remember all exhibitions that I attended, which should be a good illustration to the painstaking effort of the museum and its long-term director Prof. Irina Antonova to foster partnership between the Pushkin Museum and other world art depositories. Apart from Claude Monet in 2002, I visited (in no particular order):

Pablo Picasso, A Girl on the Ball (PMFA, Moscow)

Moscow-Berlin, photographs and paintings (1996; a review in Kommersant in Russian)
Paul Cezanne (1999)
USSR and USA in photographs (~1999)
World Museums, the partners of the Pushkin Museum (1998; the exhibit included paintings by Dali and Chagall);
an exhibition of artwork, mainly sculpture, by the wonderful Italian actress and beautiful woman, Gina Lollobrigida (?)

Speaking of different items in the collection, there is a full-size copy of Michelangelo’s statue of David, and a small hall containing quite a few paintings by Picasso, mainly from his Blue and Pink periods. I secretly took a photo of A Girl on the Ball in 2001 – it was a film camera, not digital, printed on Kodak, so it’s great it actually survived to this day.

In March this year I did a small video of the Pushkin Museum in late evening, so you can see a kind of Gothic close-up of an impressive Classicist building erected after the design by R. Klein and V. Shukhov. And bearing in mind that even Google joined the celebrations by adding a special Google Doodle, we wish the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts many happy returns (and maybe another couple of Turners in the collection)!

Related posts:

William Blake exhibition at the Pushkin Museum
Russia-Italy Year: Giotto, French Impressionsts, and Andrei Rublev
Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, a Qype review
Exhibition of Caravaggio Paintings Comes to Moscow
Queue Up for Art: The National Passion of Russians
L’Amour pour l’Art: Why Do We Visit the Great Artistic Shrines?

Russia-Italy Year: Giotto, French Impressionists, and Andrei Rublev

Pablo Picasso, Portrait of Ambroise Vollard (1910)

The cross-cultural year between Italy and Russia, celebrated in 2011, is quickly picking up the pace with the several exhibitions of outstanding Italian artists visiting Moscow – in exchange to a reciprocal visit of the collections from Russian museums.

In particular, the visitors to the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow will see Giotto’s Madonna and the Child (Madonna col Bambino at the Museo diocesano di Santo Stefano al Ponte, also known as Madonna di San Giorgio alla Costa, in Florence), and the famous polyptich from the Museo dell’Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore. In exchange, the Florentines will be able to first-hand explore the icons by Andrei Rublev, Dionisius, and the Pskov School.

Meanwhile, the visitors to the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan can see the works of French painters that had been bought by the Russian art collectors and donated to the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts. The exhibition includes paintings by Claude Monet, Paul Cezanne, Henri Matisse, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Gauguin, and Pablo Picasso. This is the first time these precious specimens of world’s painting are exhibited in Italy. One of the art collectors, Ivan Morozov, went to Paris to personally buy Picasso’s Portrait of Ambroise Vollard. Over 15 years, in which Morozov spent 200-300 thousand francs annualy, he collected over 200 works of European artists.

The exhibition in Milan runs until February 5th, 2012.


Guillaume Apollinaire – Toujours/Forever

Pablo Picasso, Portrait of Guillaume Apollinaire


À Madame Faure-Favier

Nous irons plus loin sans avancer jamais

Et de planète en planète
De nébuleuse en nébuleuse
Le don Juan des mille et trois comètes
Même sans bouger de la terre
Cherche les forces neuves
Et prend au sérieux les fantômes

Et tant d’univers s’oublient
Quels sont les grands oublieurs
Qui donc saura nous faire oublier telle ou telle partie du monde
Où est le Christophe Colomb à qui l’on devra l’oubli d’un continent

Mais perdre vraiment
Pour laisser place à la trouvaille
La vie pour trouver la Victoire

Guillaume Apollinaire (1880 – 1918)


for Mm Faure-Faviere


We shall be going farther

And never advance anywhere

And moving between the planets
And constellations
The Don Juan of a thousand-and-three comets
Without ever leaving the Earth
Seeks the new powers
And seriously takes the phantoms

So many worlds lose themselves in oblivion
So oblivious they are
Who then will make us forget this or that part of the world
Where is Columbus who will lose a continent of our memory in oblivion

We need to lose
To really lose
So as to leave the room for a rediscovery
We need to lose
Life to find the Victory

Julia Shuvalova © 2011


мадам Фор-Фавье

Мы будем все дальше идти,
Не продвигаясь вперед никогда.

И от планеты к планете,
И от созвездий к созвездиям,
Даже не покидая земли,
Дон Жуан двух тысяч комет
Ищет новые скрытые силы
И мираж всерьез принимает.

Сколько Вселенных себя навсегда забывает!
О как велика их забывчивость!
Кто же самих нас заставит забыть
Ту или эту часть света?
Где тот Колумб,
Что сумеет в памяти нашей
Закрыть континент.

Но потерять до конца,
Чтобы оставить открытию место.
Жизнь потерять,
Чтоб Победу найти.

© М. Kudinov.

Success, Power of Thought, and Goal Setting

Pablo Picasso

I‘ve written previously that I preferred “goals” to “ambitions”. I think it was in 2007, and by 2010 my point of view has changed only slightly. I’ll never stop thinking about goals, but, speaking of ambitions, my ambition is my success. And to spare you my own musings, as well as to give you some food for thought, here is a quote from Pablo Picasso:

Success is something very important! It has often been said that the artist should work for himself, for the ‘love of art’, so to speak, and despise success. That is wrong! An artist needs success. And not only to live on, but also to be able to create. Even a rich painter needs success. Only a few people understand anything about art, and a feeling for painting has not been given to everyone. Most people judge art by its success. So why leave success to the “success painters”? Every generation has had theirs. But where is it written that success should always belong to those who flatter the public? I wanted to prove that you can be successful in spite of everything and everyone, without compromising oneself. Do you know what? My success as a young painter has been my protective wall. My Blue and Rose periods were the screen, behind which I felt secure.

In one of the most recent posts on this blog I mentioned some difficulties that were to do with the previous experience at different workplaces. I’ve found the way to overcome this experience by turning to the years when I was at my absolute best – with all consequences. On occasion I have to go back over 13 years, but it is that very “protective wall” that Picasso speaks about. A massive achievement happened in 1997, then again in 2006, and to this day those are some of the things I am hugely proud of.

Of course, as Einstein put it, the older we grow the more narrow-minded we become, and this diminishes the chances of success. For this reason it is twice as important to continuously revisit those great achievements because deep within us we will still possess this reservoir of self-belief and passion that made those achievements possible.

Another thing that is very close to self-belief, passion, and the desire to succeed is the power of thinking. I am sure a lot of us have experienced moments when our thoughts suddenly materialised. Whether those were good or bad things depends on what we were thinking about. I am glad to say that the opportunity I have wanted for myself since 2008 is now there. I wanted to travel regularly, to meet new people, to be creative, to be rewarded, to be successful, and now I have it all, and there will be more. But it requires some adjustments in lifestyle, which is the reason why there was a pause in blogging since the end of January.

And now to goals. As you might know, I used to blog in Russian over at LiveJournal since 2007. Some observations that I made towards the end of 2009 made me decide to make my LJ private and to continue the adventure here. My goal is very simple: with a nod from Google under the belt, by the end of 2010 I want to be the best multilingual blogger.

Another goal, still related to this blog, is to catch up on everything I wanted to post because there is a lot.

I will also be promoting some of the work I am doing for another site this month. The work is paid, but I am sure you will be glad to follow the links to short, witty articles about Manchester (with photos, of course!)

A project I started last year will now continue because this is my huge goal. It involves a life-long interest in Literature, Cinema, and Translation. I vowed to do it, and now I have every opportunity to accomplish it.

I know I said that I didn’t want to write about the goals, and I’m not reneging on my promise. I didn’t say what the goals are, except for one or two, and the good news is that they are not just for this month.

Finally, because my work doesn’t tire my brain, there is a plenty of room for creativity, and I will make sure I share some of the results with you.

In the end, my main message is that we can always achieve things we really want. To quote Paul Arden,

I WISH means: wouldn’t it be nice if…
If you always make the right decision, the safe decision, the one most people make, you will be the same as everyone else. 
Always wishing life was different. 
I WANT means: if I want it enough I will get it. 
Getting what you want means making the decisions you need to make to get what you want. 
Not the decisions those around you think you should make. 
Making the safe decision is dull, predictable and leads nowhere new. 
The unsafe decision causes you to think and respond in a way you hadn’t thought of. 
And that thought will lead to other thoughts which will help you achieve what you want. 
Start taking bad decisions and it will take you to a place where others only dream of being. 

The photo of Pablo Picasso is courtesy of Masterworksfineart.com.


I am thinking of one artist. Like him, I am not interested in goblins and airy castles. Certainly, there is certain beauty in all this, but I need real people. And it is them whom I want to write about. 

Schnittke was prepared to break his neck but to find the fusion of classical and popular music. “A Paganini” sounds even more Paganini than the latter’s work. 
Mario Vargas Llosa writes cinematic novels. Kurt Vonnegut was the master of telegraphic style. Peter Greenaway makes films like a painter. 
“Art is a lie”. “All art is quite useless”. “Culture neither saves, nor justifies anyone”. “This illusion is the only reality”. 
In reverse order, these phrases belong to Maugham, Sartre, Wilde, and Picasso. But art and culture is the mirror in which the man looks. It is the portrait of Dorian Gray that grows older, while its sitter remains youthful. Mankind constantly rejuvenates itself, every day it becomes younger; meanwhile the paintings perish and statues lose body parts in fires, floods, and bombings. We admiringly gaze at the heads without noses and armless torsos. Is there any wonder that Death exists not only because its mystery is unfathomable but because it remains unnoticed?  
Original Russian text
Я вспоминаю одного художника. Как и ему, мне не интересны гоблины и воздушные замки. Безусловно, во всем этом есть своя прелесть, но мне нужны живые люди. И писать я хочу о них же. 
Шнитке собирался свернуть шею, но найти-таки способ соединять классическую и популярную музыку. “К Паганини” звучит еще более как Паганини, чем все произведения последнего. 
Марио Варгас Льоса пишет кинематографичные романы. Курт Воннегут – мастер телеграфного стиля. Гринуэй снимает кино, как живописец. 
“Искусство – ложь”. “Все искусство практически не нужно”. “Культура никого ни от чего не спасает, да и не оправдывает”. “Вот эта-то иллюзия и есть единственная реальность”. 
Это сказали, в обратном порядке, Моэм, Сартр, Уайльд, Пикассо. Но культура и искусство – это зеркало, в которое глядится человек. Это портрет Дориана Грэя, стареющий по мере того, как сохраняет молодость модель. Человечество все время обновляется, каждый день оно становится моложе; а в это же время в пожарах, наводнениях и бомбежках погибают картины и теряют части тела статуи. Мы восхищаемся, глядя на головы без носов и безрукие торсы. Стоит ли удивляться, что Смерть существует не только потому, что ее тайна непостижима, но и потому, что ее не замечают?
Image credit: Wikimedia

A Peregrinating (British) Library

I‘ve always been surrounded by books, as you know. Since I came to England, I have amassed a darn good collection, too, which was occasionally but generously enriched by my mother. As a result, I’ve got books in English, Russian, and French, plus one or two in Latin, plus Italian, German and Spanish grammar books. Magazines and photocopies are not included. And yet the most wonderful thing to me is the sheer variety of items. There are a few museum catalogues and two Vogue editions, Unseen Vogue: The Secret History of Fashion Photography and People in Vogue: A Century of Portraits. Oh, and The Pirelli Calendar: 40 Years Complete.

In the years I’ve been in England people applied the word “random” to describe me. But, having been reading a wonderful book about Picasso recently, I can do nothing better than to quote his words:

When you come to think of it, I’m probably a painter without style. ‘Style’ is often something that ties the artist down and makes him look at things in one particular way, the same technique, the same formulas, year after year, sometimes for a whole lifetime. You recognise him immediately, but he is always in the same suit, or a suit of the same cut. There are, of course, great painters who have a certain style. However, I always thrash about rather wildly. I am a bit of a tramp. You can see me at this moment, but I have already changed, I am already somewhere else. I can never be tied down, and that is why I have no style.

(I photographed this selection in May 2008).

Everyone Wants to Understand Art

Pablo Picasso, A Girl with a Book
Everyone wants to understand art. Why don’t we try to understand the songs of a bird? Why do we love the night, the flowers, everything around us, without trying to understand them? But in the case of a painting, people think they have to understand. If only they realised above all that an artist works of necessity, that he himself is only an insignificant part of the world, and that no more importance should be attached to him than to plenty of other things that please us in the world, though we can’t explain them. People who try to explain pictures are usually barking up the wrong tree. 
People want to find a ‘meaning’ in everything and everyone. That’s the disease of our age, an age that is anything but practical but believes itself to be more practical than any other age. 
I object to the idea that there should be three or four thousand ways of interpreting my pictures. There ought to be no more than one, and within this interpretation it should be possible, to some extent, to see nature, which after all is nothing but a kind of struggle between my inner being and the outer world. 
Is there anything more dangerous that being understood? All the more so, as there is no such thing. You are always misunderstood. You think you aren’t lonely, but in actual fact you are even more lonely.

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

Buy a Picasso, Save the Planet

Pratically hours after I briefly talked about saving the planet with the help of Social Media at the monthly Social Media Cafe, the UK-wide campaign to cut down emissions by 10% by 2010 has set off an art bomb. They got their hands on an original, signed Picasso and are offering it up for grabs, provided you pay £10.10 to enter the competition. And you can buy yourself as many chances as you like before the 31th of January deadline. The magic hat computer database will then produce one lucky white rabbit who will receive their genuine treat to hang up on the wall. All entry fees will go towards supporting the green cause.

Sadly, the competition is for the UK citizens only, but this will undoubtedly provide some food for thought to other green organisations elsewhere in the world. I have no idea where they’d get their Picassos from (or Matisses, or Leonardos, for that matter), but something will surely be spurred by this marriage of art and ecological initiative.

PS: I know the title is somewhat misleading. You are winning a Picasso, of course. However, because you are buying yourself chances to win the painting, you are effectively buying a Picasso. Not for a princely sum… although that may depend on how many times you choose to enter.

The Politics of Art: After the Debate

As I said in the previous post, I tend to dislike generic questions. With regards to this debate, as a lady in the audience pointed out, both we and speakers seemed to have confounded the verbs. Whilst the name of the debate was ‘do art and politics mix?‘, the debate itself would better go under the question ‘should art and politics mix?‘ The nuance is pivotal: although the connection between art and politics is irrefutable, the problem that often perplexes us has to do with the limits of this connection, rather than with the very fact of such.

I decided to record the debate on a rather simple digital recorder, and I’m glad that I did. The panel consisted of Ruth Mackenzie (Chair and the Festival Director), Peter Sellars, Jonathan Harris, Heather Ackroyd, and David Aaronovitch. First, Jonathan Harris attempted to illustrate that great works of art, although originating in a certain political context, nevertheless go beyond this context and may ultimately lose any connection with it. This brought to my mind a Chinese aphorism about poetry that I quoted previously in the blog: that poetry, when conveying a feeling through a “thing”, should be precise about the “thing” and reticent about the feeling, so that through the experience of the thing the feeling could be captured.

Heather Ackroyd spoke, first, about etymology and definitions of politics, and state, and art (not always convincingly, in my opinion), and then moved on to give various examples of modern art reacting to and challenging political regimes. David Aaronovitch, who came next, honestly admitted that, while listening to Jonathan and Heather, he forgot to think of what to say for himself. In the light of which he started by taking an issue with Heather and continued and ended up speaking more about politics than any kind of art. And then came Peter Sellars and, thankfully, saved the debate by getting back to where it all started: the crossroads of art and politics.

It is here that I can utter that I’m very happy to have recorded the debate because Peter’s talk is a great example of public talk. Someone may say this is no wonder that a famous theatre director should also be a good speaker, but, as we all know, talents for art and for speech don’t always complement each other.

It was Sellars who touched on the question I raised at the end of my previous post. Art and politics always mix, but to what end? A few people told me I was a dreamer, which I accept because it is true. I’ve always believed in peace, so for me the goal of both art and politics is to promote peace by the means of peace. Again, previously on this blog I quoted Picasso who said that ‘painting is the instrument of war‘. This phrase, however, shouldn’t be construed as Picasso’s advocating the war: Guernica is one of the most powerful anti-war statements in the world’s art. Rather Picasso was acknowledging the fact that art could be and was being used to wage and propagate wars. Yet he was also arguing that, since an artist is a political being, whose biggest political act consists of the ability to take interest in another human being, then painting, as art in general, was the instrument of bringing peace.

This theme of an artist’s empathy lies at the heart of Sellars’s talk. To accord a human status to a human being is a great political act, and art therefore teaches people the skill of inclusiveness, the ability to ‘get outside of your head‘ and to put yourself in other people’s shoes. It is also art, not the media, that provides a new level of information, as ‘uninformed democracy is worse than a tyranny‘. The lack of information and empathy leads to violence which is ‘the collapse of communication‘, the ultimate manifestation of the lack of knowledge and understanding. This is the theme that rises in Gus Van Sant’s Elephant: at certain point during the film you realise that the tragedy that is about to happen has to do not only with the “dangerous minds”, but with the conflict between craving for inclusion and alienation. In Sellars’s words, today’s violence originates from one’s desire to ignore and another’s desire to be acknowledged, whereby the latter plants a bomb in the former’s car.

War is the consequence of this lack of communication and violence, and the purpose of art is to teach us see both reasons and consequences of violence. There is only one way to prevent wars, and that is through deepening people’s listening and looking capacities. At the same time, art continues to be a category beyond all categories, a land that doesn’t exist, and it’s this non-existence that draws us to art. In this, art is akin to culture, and culture, in the words of J.-P. Sartre, neither saves, nor justifies anyone; but it is a man’s creation, a critical mirror in which he can see and recognise himself (The Words).

Ultimately, man always wants to possess something he doesn’t have, and that is Beauty. The myth of Pygmalion is about the fundamental craving for the Beautiful, it is about the desire to have that which is unattainable and yet so close. The pleasure of finding and experiencing the Beautiful is what we should read in the well-known ‘beauty saves the world‘. It is not Beauty as such that saves the world, it is our full and open experience of it that does. Sellars utters this at the end of his talk: ‘world is going to be transformed through pleasure, not through accusation‘.

I suppose it is easy to see, whose side I am on, which I personally acknowledged to Peter. I uploaded his speech, and I still apologise for some technical imperfections and coughing sounds – there is little you can do at the live event of this kind. But I feel that we need speakers like Peter Sellars who encourages the new generation of artists to complexify things exactly when politicians are simplifying them. He calls on the artists’ sophistication, humility and empathy, to bring deeper understanding and pleasure to people. Listen to his talk, think about it, pass it on. For my part, this was one of the occasions when I was thrilled and proud to be living in Manchester.

Visiting London-7 (London Book Fair)

In Visiting London-6 I mentioned and already wrote about a few seminars that I attended at the LBF. One of these was on the subject of marketing a bookshop.

Marketing Your Bookshop was presented by Peter Fisk, a respected marketer who spent years of working with and gained an invaluable experience at British Airways, Microsoft, American Express, and Coca Cola. He is also one of the most inspirational and engaging speakers I’ve seen (and heard) in my life. His style of presentation is of the kind I like to listen to and to deliver myself.

Although focused on marketing a terrestrial bookshop, the presentation has had a far wider scope, and an attentive listener would take away from a one hour talk probably as much as they would after days of intensive training and reading. Needless to say, the advice given is equally applicable to online marketing as well.

Two very basic ideas are genuinely simple: to run a successful business in the modern-day world, you need 1) to combine your logic with your creativity and 2) to cater for the needs and desires of your customer. Legion is the name to those needs, but tuning in to your customers’ voices can ultimately help you enhance and even expand your business. The necessity to expand may be inevitable even for funeral businesses (after all, you may be not the only undertaker in town). Apparently, in the States they began to recognise the fact that the funeral should be a celebration of the life of the deceased, rather than an endless mourning of their death. As a consequence, some American undertakers began to expand their business into the area of fireworks trade and to offer a choice of a firework display to perform at the scattering of the ashes.

Yet the cleverest point of the presentation is Peter’s continuous referring to the two distinct, genuine individuals who in a very powerful way challenged and shaped the 20th c. – Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso. The idea of a successful marketing is in bringing together one’s creativity and one’s logical thinking. Picasso and Einstein are referred to as those who embodied creativity (Picasso) and logic (Einstein). As being shown, however, Picasso had received an in-depth academic training in painting, whereby he was eventually able to overthrow the canons of his art and to pave the road to a new artistic vision. Likewise, Einstein, as brainy as he was, had been a dreamer who dreamt up some of his groundbreaking theories while walking in the mountains. Both Picasso and Einstein were capable of such complete success at their “trade” because, in the end of the day, both used logic and knowledge AS WELL as their creative potential.

This point is not only valid, but very powerful indeed, as it shows that a successful business is not just about figures, money, and the GP. Furthermore, Fisk potently demonstrates that art and business are not completely polar, as many of us tend to believe. He doesn’t recommend to turn your business into “show business”, but he urges to try and find this elusive equilibrium of creative thinking and knowledge. Quite simply, if you’re knowledgeable, look to make a new creative use of it. If you’re an artist, don’t lose your mind to the untempered creative impulse.

I suppose the latter point must sound strange coming from somebody creative (myself on this occasion). But, even if we look no further than at the works of literature, we’ll notice that all of them that survived their time and continue to impact and inspire us to this day are not just “lovely stories” or “serious stuff”. Beautiful in form, these works often hide many powerful intellectual challenges. For example, I have noticed long ago that people tend to think that poetry, as art in general, is all about emotion. In fact, it is about concealing the emotion, distancing from it, in order to capture its essence. One of my favourite Russian poets, Konstantin Balmont, when still young, was told by one of the older writers: ‘Let your inspiration crystallise first, then write’. “To crystallise the inspiration” means exactly what Peter Fisk is talking about in his presentation: to apply strict logical thinking to a creative impulse.


Marketing Genius at Amazon.com.

Marketing Genius Live – information about the book, seminars, launches, as well as a few free videos and extracts.

The Genius Works – more about Marketing Genius and Peter Fisk, plus more downloads. (Take a note of the website’s name.)

Peter Fisk’s presentation Business Strategy by Einstein and Picasso (video) from The Genius Works.

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