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Moscow's Pushkin Museum to close for reconstruction in 2009

MOSCOW, April 25 (RIA Novosti) - Moscow's Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts will close for three years in 2009 for a $380 million reconstruction program headed by a Western architect, a leading business daily said.

The classical collections of Botticelli, Rembrandt, Magnasco, Guardi, Rubens, Fayum portraits, the pharaohs, and antique replicas will be closed to the public from 2009 for an indefinite period.

The paper cites Mikhail Kusnirovich, president of Bosco di Ciliegi, as saying on behalf of the Museum Friends fund that it had commissioned "a famous Western architect with an international reputation," to lead the reconstruction. Kommersant said British architect Lord Norman Foster was the most likely candidate.

Under the reconstruction project, the museum will rent one of its premises, a 1914 residential building with floor space of 8,000 square meters worth about $100 million at current prices, to a private investor.

Kommersant said it doubted the project would be complete within three years. The $380 million reconstruction funding has been allocated from the federal budget for 2007-2010, the first three-year budget in post-Soviet Russia. But the daily said experience showed that reconstruction programs tend to cost twice as much as the sum initially quoted, as in the case of the Bolshoi and Mariinsky theaters, which means that it will be 2010 at the earliest before any substantial funding from the budget is available.

Kommersant said these obstacles and the reputation of Lord Foster known for utopian architectural projects could result in the museum being closed for ten years like the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow and the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg.

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