Paris show of mas­ter­pieces proves a hit

Ex­hi­bi­tion of pri­vate mod­ern-art col­lec­tions un­seen out­side Rus­sia to be ex­tended

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - ARTS & CULTURE - By An­toine Froidefond, and Fiachra Gib­bons

PARIS: A smash-hit show of one the world’s great­est pri­vate col­lec­tions of mod­ern art is to be ex­tended af­ter 600,000 peo­ple flocked to see it in just 10 weeks.

“Icons of Mod­ern Art,” at Paris’ Louis Vuit­ton Foun­da­tion, fea­tures the cream of the stag­ger­ing col­lec­tion of 250 paint­ings put to­gether by Sergei Shchukin be­fore the Bol­she­vik Rev­o­lu­tion, which had never be­fore been seen out­side Rus­sia.

The show in­cludes 29 works by Pi­casso, 22 by Matisse, 12 by Gau­guin and other top-notch Cezannes and Van Goghs that the su­per-rich tex­tile mer­chant picked up on trips to Paris be­fore World War I.

With 60,000 peo­ple a week flock­ing to the spec­tac­u­lar, though mod­est­sized, pri­vate gallery de­signed by Frank Gehry, its hours are be­ing ex­tended to try to cope with the de­mand, with doors open­ing seven days a week un­til 11 p.m. in Fe­bru­ary.

In the fi­nal week of the ex­tended run, which ends March 5, the foun­da­tion in the west of the French cap­i­tal will stay open till 1 a.m.

Paid for by the French lux­ury goods ty­coon Bernard Ar­nault, the gallery will lay on a break­fast every morn­ing for vis­i­tors in the fi­nal week when doors open at 7 a.m.

That could end up amount­ing to quite a moun­tain of crois­sants as the show’s at­ten­dance is al­ready out­strip­ping the block­buster “Magritte” ex­hibit at Paris’ Pom­pi­dou Cen­tre, which is cur­rently pulling in 6,000 peo­ple a day.

As well as the im­pres­sion­ist and post-im­pres­sion­ist mas­ter­pieces, the ex­hi­bi­tion also in­cludes 30 ma­jor pieces from Rus­sia’s avant-garde supre­ma­tist and con­struc­tivist move­ments, loaned by the Tretyakov State Gallery in Moscow and the Rus­sian Mu­seum in St Peters­burg.

Shchukin, who fled Rus­sia for France af­ter the rev­o­lu­tion, had a par­tic­u­larly close re­la­tion­ship with Henri Matisse, whom he brought to Moscow in 1911 to dec­o­rate his pala­tial home.

He also com­mis­sioned two of the artist’s most im­por­tant works, “The Dance” and “Mu­sic,” which are the cen­tre­pieces of the Paris show, cu­rated by the former head of the city’s Pi­casso Mu­seum, Anne Bal­das­sari.

Lenin him­self signed the de­cree to ex­pro­pri­ate the works, be­fore Stalin scat­tered the col­lec­tion to mu­se­ums in Moscow and St Peters­burg, con­demn­ing some of the great­est mas­ter­pieces of 20th-cen­tury art as “bour­geois and cos­mopoli­tan.”

The ex­hi­bi­tion is the fruit of years of ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween LVMH boss Ar­nault and the Rus­sian au­thor­i­ties, with a part­ner­ship agree­ment signed last year be­tween the foun­da­tion and the Her­mitage Mu­seum in St Peters­burg and Moscow’s Pushkin Mu­seum.

A man look­ing at a paint­ing in col­lec­tor Sergei Shchukin’s Chtchoukine col­lec­tion, part of the ex­hi­bi­tion “Icons of mod­ern art,” at Paris’ Louis Vuit­ton foun­da­tion.

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