Shchukin Collection of Masterpieces to Reunite After a Century for First-Ever Show Outside Russia

The collection was split up after the October Revolution.

Henri Matisse, La Danse (1909-1910). Courtesy of Fondation Louis Vuitton and The State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg.

The collection of the Russian textile merchant Sergei Shchukin, described as one of the world’s finest collections of modern art, will go on view outside of Russia for the first time in nearly 100 years at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris, the Guardian reports.

The wealthy businessman and arts patron amassed over 250 works of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces including 50 Picassos, 38 works by Matisse, 13 Monets, eight Cezannes and four Van Goghs. He even dedicated an entire room of his Moscow mansion to his 16 Gauguin Tahiti paintings.

French luxury goods billionaire Bernard Arnault opened the Fondation Louis Vuitton in 2014. Photo: Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris

French luxury goods billionaire Bernard Arnault opened the Fondation Louis Vuitton in 2014.
Photo: Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris

However, in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution in October 1917, Shchukin’s collection was expropriated by the state, broken up, and distributed among museums in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Stalin reportedly labelled the artworks “bourgeois and cosmopolitan.”

Shchukin—who fled to France after the revolution—was also a close friend and patron of Henri Matisse, and commissioned The Dance (1909-10), and Music (1910), two of the artist’s most celebrated works.

According to the Guardian, some 80 years after Shchukin’s death, the French mega-collector and arts philanthropist Bernard Arnault successfully coordinated the exhibition, following several years of negotiations with Russian authorities.

The deal was made official on Wednesday, when the French luxury goods magnate signed an agreement with the Russian foreign ministry, the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, and the Pushkin Museum, Moscow to bring the collection together again in its entirety for a show slated to open this fall at Arnault’s foundation in Paris.


Bernard Arnault.
Photo: © 2014 Patrick McMullan Company, Inc.

“This is a historic event which will have people coming from all over the world, something we are not likely to see again of a while,” Arnault’s advisor Jean-Paul Claverie told AFP.

He added that Arnault’s vast personal wealth was an essential contributing factor to the realization of the exhibition, which would have been financially unattainable for even the world’s most prestigious museums. “Big private collectors often play a key role in putting together the collections of great public institutions,” Claverie explained.

“[The show] is a strong signal,” the billionaire’s advisor added. “A great benefactor, Bernard Arnault, wanted to pay homage to a great collector.”

“Icons of Modern Art. The Shchukin Collection, Hermitage Museum– Pushkin Museum” will be on view at the Fondation Louis Vuitton from October 20, 2016–February 20, 2017 

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