January 23, 2008

From Russia in London

"From Russia: French and Russian Master Paintings 1870-1925 from Moscow and St. Petersburg," Royal Academy of Arts, London. Through April 18. See images of the show.

Because André-Marc Delocque-Fourcaud and Pierre Konowaloff, heirs of two of the most assiduous Russian tsarist-era collectors whose art was confiscated by Lenin in 1918, claimed to be the rightful owners of paintings in this show, the opening was held up for months, but "From Russia" is finally on view. In the Guardian, Adrian Searle says it's one damn masterpiece after another. "Great, ghastly, revolutionary and hilarious - what a strange ride 'From Russia' is. Opening on Saturday, this long-awaited, on-and-off affair, resolved only by a last-minute change in English law, has finally arrived at London's Royal Academy. To be honest, I never altogether cared whether this exhibition came here or not. The imploring, the pleas and the goings-on about how much it mattered seemed to me a bit forced, as well as slightly absurd." Read more.

At Bloomberg, Martin Gayford agrees that the show is a blockbuster, but quirky. "There is a wall of magnificent Cezannes, another of superb Gauguins, a third -- even higher on the wow register -- of Matisses. These are by no means the whole show. As a whole, it is a more uneven experience, full of abrupt surges and drops in quality not unlike the graph of the world's stock markets over the past few days. There are quite a few duds on view as well as some kitsch -- and not all the dross is by Russian artists. This show consists of late 19th- and early 20th-century paintings from both Paris and Russia. So what it deals with is the game of catch-up that Russian artists and collectors were playing with advanced French culture in the years leading up to the 1917 October Revolution." Read more.

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