Monthly Archives: January, 2017

Shchukin Art Collection On Display — Finally — decades after Stalin’s “too decadent” decree

Portrait of Dr. Félix Rey, by Vincent van Gogh, 1889.
Photo: From The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow.


“Decades After Being Hidden by Stalin, the Shchukin Art Collection Is Finally On Display”

‘The art collection of a Moscow textile magnate, which includes Cezannes, Monets, Matisses, and Picassos, was once decreed “too decadent” by the dictator. Now, for the first time ever, it will be shown in its entirety at the Fondation Louis Vuitton.’

By JAMES REGINATO


“The collection is one of the most beautiful that has ever been put together. It is a complete vision of the beginning of contemporary art.” (Bernard Arnault)

Arnault opened Fondation Louis Vuitton, host of landmark exhibition, “Icons of Modern Art: The Shchukin Collection,” in Paris two years ago.


When Russian and French representatives attended the United Nations General Assembly in September 2014, they had plenty of urgent topics on their agenda. Among them was the fate of one of the world’s most important, but relatively unknown, collections of modern art. Between 1897 and 1914, Moscow textile magnate Sergei Shchukin amassed 275 masterpieces, including 8 Cézannes, 13 Monets, 16 Gauguins, 41 Matisses, and 50 Picassos, which he displayed at his home, the Trubetskoy Palace.

Woman with a Fan, by Pablo Picasso, 1908. From The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg/© Succession Picasso.

Woman with a Fan, by Pablo Picasso, 1908.
From The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg/© Succession Picasso.

Nationalized in 1918 after the Bolshevik Revolution, the collection was eventually dispersed between the Pushkin Museum, in Moscow, and the Hermitage, in St. Petersburg. In 1948, Stalin decreed that the pictures were decadent, and they were hidden until his death (1953), when some of them began popping up on the walls of the two museums. Only then did the importance of the collection come to light. In recent years, Shchukin’s 74-year-old grandson, André-Marc Delocque-Fourcaud, a French citizen, has been lobbying to re-unite the collection in a major exhibition that would finally establish its eminence. No museum in Russia or France, however, had the hefty funds or the political clout to make it happen.

But one modern Medici did. Bernard Arnault, the chairman and C.E.O. of LVMH, an empire of 70 luxury brands, from Christian Dior to Dom Pérignon, “jumped,” according to one of his advisers, when he learned about the collection. From October 22 of this year through February 20, 2017, the Fondation Louis Vuitton—a spectacular Frank Gehry-designed center that Arnault opened in Paris two years ago—will host a landmark exhibition, “Icons of Modern Art: The Shchukin Collection.”

Woman with Rake, by Kazimir Malevich, circa 1932. From The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.

Woman with Rake, by Kazimir Malevich, circa 1932.
From The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.

“For me, it’s a big event,” Arnault said recently, during a rare interview in his sleek office suite at LVMH headquarters, on the Avenue Montaigne, in Paris. “The collection is one of the most beautiful that has ever been put together. It is a complete vision of the beginning of contemporary art.”

Nude, Black and Gold, by Henri Matisse, 1908. From The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg/© Succession H. Matisse.

Nude, Black and Gold, by Henri Matisse, 1908.
From The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg/© Succession H. Matisse.

And, he continues, “we got the approval of both governments, which, at the present time, is . . . something.” The show is not only the epitome of globalization—“a Russian national treasure, which is primarily French art, installed in a building designed by a U.S. architect”—but also a testament to the power of brands, and art, to transcend politics. “In a way, my group and myself are ambassadors around the world,” says Arnault. “The average Chinese person, for example, knows the name of Christian Dior or Louis Vuitton more than he knows the name of any French head of state—maybe with the exception of Napoleon.”


Exhibition:

“Icons of Modern Art: The Shchukin Collection”
Through March 5, 2017 (Extended)
Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris
http://bit.ly/2i3SwMN


By James Reginato, Reprint from VanityFair.com, from the magazine Vanity Fair, 29 September 2016, © Condé Nast.

“Life on the Streets: Sergio Larrain… ” By Richard Conway

Sergio Larrain—Magnum: Street children in Santiago, 1957.


“Life on the Streets: Sergio Larrain at Rencontres”

By RICHARD CONWAY


For a man who worked professionally for barely more than ten years, Sergio Larrain, who died in 2012, had a disproportionately large impact on photography. The author of four books, he is widely considered Chile’s finest lensman, though he became something of a recluse later in life.

Born in Santiago into a well-to-do family, he ditched a possible career in forestry for a life behind the camera, and saved up for his first Leica by working in a cafe. The son of an architect father, his love of photography grew when he later traveled the Middle East and Europe, lens in tow. His real break came in 1958, though, when he bagged a British Council bursary that allowed him photograph cities throughout the U.K.

The images that emerged – chiefly of London – were captivating shots of the everyday, and caught the eye of Henri Cartier-Bresson. The Frenchman later invited Larrian to Paris and the Chilean soon joined Cartier-Bresson’s Magnum agency as an associate in 1959 (and became a full member in 1961).

Chilian photographer Sergio LARRAIN. MAGNUM

Chilian photographer Sergio LARRAIN. MAGNUM

His was a career filled with disparate subject matters, tied together with his famous compassion for those he photographed. Larrain’s style is immediately recognizable: he made use of vertical frames, was a fan of low angle shots and was wholly unafraid of experimentation. Much of his work was concerned with street children, and his some of his earliest pictures – those from a 1957 series in Chile, for example – are certainly his most powerful. Though he was no stranger to architectural photography, having shot fellow countryman and diplomat Pablo Neruda’s house.

Indeed, his portraiture is as humanistic as it is environmental. One of his most captivating images, taken as part of the later Valparaiso series in the port city of Valparaiso, Chile, perfectly combines both. The piece shows two young girls going down a staircase, their delicate frames contrasting with the solid, modernist-seeming gray concrete surrounding them. It is a picture as much about its subjects as it is about the context in which see them; and with their backs turned to us, is as much about what we see as what we don’t.

“He is very different, very intense,” says Agnès Sire, director of the Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation, and curator of an upcoming retrospective of Larrain’s work at Les Rencontres d’Arles, “for me, he is [often] interested in what you don’t see.”

Larrain stopped taking pictures professionally in the 1970s and retreated to the Chilean countryside for a life of calm meditation (though he continued to take some pieces in the 1980s, they were photographs of objects, usually in his house, which he would send to friends in the mail). It is said that he withdrew because he, ever the humanitarian, became disillusioned with the often harsh world he was photographing, and felt powerless to help.

“He stopped his career. It was not bringing him what he [thought] it would bring to him,” explains Sire. “[He felt] the fact he photographed those kids will not change the fact that there will always be kids abandoned. Photography will not help save the planet.”

Sire adds that Larrain even rejected the idea of retrospectives for most of his later life, because they might force him out of his self-imposed retreat, and that his career was meteoric for a reason: he was a man who would only, and could only, follow his instincts. “He was unique,” she says, “he was really a free man.”


A retrospective of Sergio Larrain’s work formed part of Les Rencontres d’Arles 2013, exhibited from July 1 through Sept. 22, 2013.

Richard Conway is a member of TIME.com’s photo staff. He’s previously written for LightBox on Erwin Olaf, Gary Winogrand, Ezra Stoller and Pete Hujar.


Reprint from TIME.com, 26 June 2013, © 2017 Time Inc.