One of the Golitsyn Princes' estates is situated in the very heart of Moscow. This building which faces the Kremlin and the Cathedral of Christ the Savior now houses the Museum of Private Collections. In the 19th century, it was a famous Moscow hotel "Knyazhy Dvor" (Prince's Court). Artists like Vasily Surikov, Leonid Pasternak, Alexander Rodchenko and Varvara Stepanova used to stay here. The hotel also hosted Union of Russian Artists' exhibitions. And it was quite normal that the Museum of Private Collections opened there ten years ago.
The idea to found this museum came to Ilya Zilbershtein, the editor-in-chief of Literature Heritage and a well-known literary critic and collector, and Irina Antonova, the director of the Pushkin State Fine Arts Museum, supported him. It was difficult to put this idea into practice and took them almost ten years to overcome red tape. Finally, in 1994 the Museum of Private Collections was opened to the public as a department of the Pushkin State Fine Arts Museum.
The museum was created for several reasons. First, private collections contain many interesting pieces of art. In addition, many collectors understand that once their collections outgrow their houses they should become public property. Many people wished to share their collections with the museum. Ten private collections were on display when it opened.
Today the museum has about 30 collections including over 6,000 works of art: painting, graphics, sculpture, decorative and applied arts and photography. Seventeen collections are currently being shown. In its ten years of existence, the museum has organised and held about 70 art exhibitions.
Each collection is placed in the room or several rooms where visitors can learn about the collectors. For instance, the museum has a Dmitry Krasnopevtsev room that was designed to look like an artist's studio with an icon on the easel, bookshelves, and collections of shells, small icons, keys and unusual woodwork.
The museum maintains friendly relations with Yevgeny Pasternak, the grandson of the artist Leonid Pasternak. In the Pasternak room, there are images of the family and pictures by the famous artist.
The rooms that contain Svyatoslav Richter's collection feature photographs from the pianist's archives, paintings and graphic works by Robert Falk, Nataliya Goncharova and Dmitry Krasnopevtsev and pastels made by Richter himself. Richter's room often hosts chamber concerts, which are traditionally held by the Skryabin International Music Society.
There are two rooms dedicated to Alexander Rodchenko and Varvara Stepanova. The museum maintains friendly relations with Rodchenko's grandson, Alexander Lavrentyev. Rodchenko's gift to the museum contains more than 500 pieces of art.
Two halls present 15th-18th century Russian icons from the collection of Mikhail Chuvanov, a well-known bibliophile and head of the Preobrazhensk Old Believers' community, and artist Tatiana Mavrina.
The collection of Yekaterina and Fyodor Lemkul includes more than 300 pieces of Russian and Western European glassware.
The museum keeps contacts with the Club of Moscow Fine Art Collectors headed by Valery Dudakov. The club helped to organise an exhibition dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the Union of Russian Artists. The museum recently hosted an exposition on the 125th anniversary of artist Pyotr Konchalovsky. His grandsons, famous Russian film directors Andrei Mikhalkov-Konchalovsky and Nikita Mikhalkov donated the pictures. Musician Maxim Konchalovsky made a valuable gift to the museum, Vrubel's piece "Cleopatra in the Bed." Visitors to the museum will be able to see the picture soon.
Recently, the museum enjoyed the success of the exhibition of 18th-19th century oriental ikat robes from Tair Tairov's collection. Due to professionalism of museum officials, the exhibits looked like works of art.
The Museum of Private Collections gives exhibits for foreign expositions. The recent exhibition of Ilya Repin in Berlin featured his works from the Tretyakov Gallery and the Museum of Private Collections. Works by artist Nataliya Goncharova will be presented at an exposition devoted to the Russian-Norwegian relations in Norway and St Petersburg.
The museum's collection is being replenished. Soon the museum is likely to possess the non-conformist art collection of Russian artists from the second half of the 20th century, which belonged to collector Leonid Talochkin.
Russians living abroad present their collections to the museum, as well. Nikita and Nina Lobanov-Rostovsky presented the museum with their collection of early 20th century theatrical graphics. Collector Semen Papkov from San Francisco donated a large collection of Alexander Benois' graphic landscapes to the museum. Georgy Shapshala, a surgeon who lives in Switzerland, presented the museum with graphic works by his parents Yakov Shapshala and Maria Berenhof-Shapshala.
The museum officials have been making a database that contains information about private collections. They are also interested in making a database of private collections of Russian art in Russia and abroad.
The museum has published its illustrated guide by the 10th anniversary.