Irina Antonova steps down as head of Pushkin Museum

Irina Antonova steps down as head of Pushkin Museum
Irina Antonova. Photograph: RIA Novosti

1 July 2013

Irina Antonova, the outspoken grand dame of the Russian art world, has stepped down as director of Moscow’s Pushkin Museum, after more than half a century at the helm. Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky made the announcement at a press briefing on Monday, adding that the 90-year-old would be replaced by Marina Loshak, currently art director of Moscow State Exhibition Hall Manege. Antonova will stay on as president of the museum.

Medinsky said: “Marina has a lot of experience working for museums … I am certain that she will provide a fresh impetus to our great and beloved Pushkin Museum.” Loshak, who will take over as director on 10 July, said would not be making any dramatic changes to the museum. She said: “We want this museum to become even better especially in its strategic development. It is important that the staff and all those involved in the museum realise that we are fighting a common cause because in the the future we will be developing Pushkin Museum.” On the future of the museum, Antonova said: “I hope that the experience I gained over the years will be of benefit.”

In an email to The Calvert Journal, Vasili Tsereteli, executive director of the Moscow Museum of Modern Art, described Antonova as a “tremendously respected” figure in the art world both within and outside of Russia. He said: “Marina Loshak is a great choice as director. Marina has proven herself not only as a great curator and art historian but also a great manager. In a short time as head of Manage, under which there are more than six separate museums, she was able to take them all to a new level with great exhibitions ... I think the new appointment was blessed by Irina Aleksandrovna.”

Afanasy Gnedovsky, director of the International Council of Museums in Russia, dismissed speculation in some media reports that Antonova had been fired following a feud with the director of the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. He said: “Pushkin Museum is one of the most successful both by numbers of visitors and the quality of exhibitions.” He added that the most likely reason that Antonova was stepping down as director was to lighten her workload.

Antonova made headlines earlier this year when, in a live phone-in show with President Vladimir Putin, she called on the president to restore the State Museum of Modern Western Art. The institution was closed in 1948 at Stalin’s request for displaying “bourgeois” and “dangerous” artworks by modern masters such as Monet, Renoir and Gauguin. After its closure, the museum’s collection was divided up between Pushkin Museum and the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. Antonova’s request to revive the State Museum of Modern Western Art angered Hermitage Director Mikhail Piotrovsky, who refused to return any artwork from the his museum’s collection. In May, Medinsky said the museum would be resurrected online this year.

Throughout her tenure, Antonova has been no stranger to controversy. In 1973, she convinced state authorities to let her exhibit work by the Impressionists that had been in storage for years. The following year, she exhibited the Mona Lisa in Moscow for the first time, a show which drew crowds of eager Muscovites. She later exhibited Malevich, Kandinsky and Chagall, all of whom had work banned at various points throughout the Soviet Union.

Source: RIA Novosti