Irina Antonova, Russian Museum World’s Grande Dame, dies at 98

Moscow – Irina A. Antonova, a commanding art historian who led the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow, who for more than half a century used it to bring outside culture to isolate Soviet citizens and make it a prominent Turned into a cultural institution, he died. On Monday in that city. She was 98.

The reason was a coronavirus infection, heart failure by the museum What was said.

Ms. Antonova pushed the museum forward through the harsh and secessionist cultural policies of the Soviet Union and in the period following the fall of communism. In recent years it has expanded the museum to adjacent buildings – sometimes to resent its tenants – to accommodate mushroom exhibitions.

Quickly, Ms. Antonova used her unbreakable energy to build relationships with the world’s major museums. In 1974, he brought the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in Paris. Thousands flocked to see it, the only line to be proud of the Soviet government at the time. Many knew that with the country’s borders closed, this may be the only chance to see Leonardo da Vinci working during his lifetime.

He later opened the world to the Soviet people with an exhibition of 100 paintings of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the “Treasures of Trotonkhamen”.

On Ms. Antonova’s watch, the Pushkin Museum also exhibited abstract and avant-garde works by Russian and international artists. It was generally unimaginable in a country where an informal art show was once broken with the help of a bulldozer, and Nikita S., the leader of the time. Khrushchev visited an exhibition of new Soviet art in 1962, screaming that some abstract paintings were made with “donkey tails” and that even his grandson could do better.

In 1981, the museum hosted “Moscow-Paris, 1900–1930”, a historical exhibition mixed with highlights of the Russian avant-garde of the time by French artists such as Matisse and Picasso. Includes works by Chagall, Malerich and Candinsky. The exhibition featured how well Russian artists fit in with Western European trends, and they had sometimes helped create those trends.

Thanks to her Bolshevik father, Ms. Antonova had a pedigree that made it easy to interact with Soviet cultural bureaucrats. Using her charm and intelligence, she was Able to change Still largely worthy of a major museum, a famous museum had a collection of plaster casts of famous sculptures.

“We were allowed to do things that were never offered in other places,” Ms. Antonova said. Documentary film The museum is dedicated to its 100th anniversary. “Banning was very easy. They did not have to do much while we were still allowed to do something. “

After the fall of the Soviet Union, it continued its quest to bring Russia closer to the outside world, with works by Joseph Bayes and Alberto Giacometti performed.

He moved to Germany during World War II to uncover art treasures seized by the Soviet Army and remained hidden in the museum’s depository. Critics blame him for moving slowly and even failing to acknowledge his existence. But Ms. Antonova argued that it was impossible to act during the Soviet era.

In a condolence message on his death, Russian President Vladimir V. Putin What was said Ms. Antonova served Russian culture with inspiration “as a dedicated expert, enthusiast and teacher”, receiving professional and public acclaim. “

Irina Aleksandrovna Antonova was born on March 20, 1922 in Moscow. His father, Hangzhou A. Antonov, an electrician, became the head of a research institute; His mother Ida M. Heffitz worked in a printing house.

Irina moved to Germany with her family in 1929 when her father was sent to work at the Soviet Embassy. She lived there for four years, learned German and acquired a taste of European culture.

During the war, she trained as a nurse and cared for Soviet pilots, many of them seriously injured in hospitals in Moscow.

He graduated from Moscow State University and was sent to work at the Pushkin Museum shortly before the war ended. The museum was founded in 1912 by wealthy merchants; When she arrived, there was no heating in the building and her glass roof collapsed during the bombing.

Olga L. Sveblova, a friend and director of the Multimedia Art Museum in Moscow, said in an interview that Ms. Antonova brought to the museum “a deep recognition that culture and art have no boundaries: temporal, geographic, national.”

Ms Svlolova said, “She defended these beliefs under Stalin, Khrushchev, Brezhnev, Gorbachev and during the 30 years she lived and worked in Russia.”

In 1961, Ms. Antonova became the first female appointed director of the museum. She held that position until 2013, when she was named its president and left the day-to-day administration to focus on strategic development. His overall tenure in various roles was 75 years.

During the Soviet period, Ms. Antonova was lucky to be allowed to travel, but she said she sometimes cried, leaving a culturally rich Italian city, knowing that this might be her last time.

In those years, together with acclaimed Soviet pianist Sivatoslav Richter, Ms. Antonova began hosting a series of concerts every December inside the museum’s expansion hall. The concerts, called the evening of December, are some of the most sought-after performances in Moscow.

Her husband, art historian Yvesi Aayi. Rottenberg died in 2011. He is survived by his son, Boris.

Marina D. to them. Lakhak succeeded as museum director, who stated, “Without Irina Antonova, it is hard to imagine the Pushkin Museum.”

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