The V&A: Working in and with Russia

Posted in Exhibitions

The Museum is working increasingly in and with Russia with projects including touring exhibitions and sharing expertise, knowledge and collections with museum partners.

The galleries of the Museum show some fine Russian objects, mainly, metalwork and some outstanding examples of jewellery and theatre material related. One of V&A’s Russian highlights is the superb silver-gilt gates from Kiev displayed in the Gilbert galleries. Visitors can also see a 17th century silver and parcel gilt Mother and Child triptych and an enamelled brass triptych Virgin and Child made in Russia in 1800-1813 by an unknown artist which was given by Professor Gottfried Semper and said to have been found on the body of a dead Russian soldier after the Battle of Dresden in 1813. A late 18th-century cut-steel fireplace made in Tula, good examples of mosaics, secular and religious silver, gold boxes, and jewellery from the Russian royal collections. The Jewellery Gallery shows about 30 pieces of Fabergé, including the Seeds imperial presentation box and a loan collection of cigarette cases and carved animals formed by the late Kenneth Snowman, of which the highlights include animals owned by Queen Alexandra. There are nearly 200 twentieth century posters and collection of 19th century photographs of people associated with the theatre in St Petersburg. The V&A collection also include Russian toys, Revolutionary ceramics and traditional 19th century jewellery. Russian furniture, textiles, glass, sculpture and paintings are also present in the V&A collections.

A fruitful relationship of exhibition exchanges and co-curated projects has developed between the V&A and the Moscow Kremlin Museums. The Golden Age of the English Court, from Henry VIII to Charles I will be on display at the Moscow Kremlin Museums from October 2012 to January 2013, followed by Tudors, Stuarts and the Russian Tsars 1509-1685 at the V&A from March to July 2013. The London show will include a substantial loan of late Tudor, early Stuart and French 17th century silver from the Moscow Kremlin Museums and portraits of Tsars and a Russian Ambassador to England from the Moscow Kremlin Museums and the State Historic Museum.

Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballets Russes, 1909-1929, the headline exhibition at the V&A in Autumn 2010, explored the world of the influential artistic director Serge Diaghilev and the most exciting dance company of the 20th century. Through this exhibition the V&A developed a good relationship with the Ekaterina Foundation in Moscow, which funded the first private art gallery in Moscow and owns one of the most important private collections of modern art.

The V&A exhibition Space and Light, at the V&A (September 2010-March 2011), focused on Edward Gordon Craig's work with Stanislavsky for the Moscow Arts Theatre’s Hamlet of 1911. The exhibition also went to the 2011 Prague Quadrennial.

Two Centuries of British Fashion, an exhibition from V&A, was shown at the Moscow Kremlin Museums (September to November in 2008), and preceded a major return loan of 18th century costume for Magnificence of the Tsars, shown at the V&A from December 2008 to March 2009.

Decode, the V&A’s digital design show was exhibited at The Garage Centre for Contemporary Culture, Moscow (February-April 2011). The exhibition received over 61,600 visitors.

International Loans
The V&A has sent significant loans to museums in Russia including the Diaghilev ‘poster-image’, Le Train Bleu theatrical backcloth, which was lent to a Diaghilev exhibition at the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow (late 2009/10). The Museum lent 15 jewellery objects to the Moscow Kremlin Museums for Russian Emperors and the Armoury Chamber (Spring 2006).

The V&A has also received loans, including a number of objects from the State Historic Museum in St Petersburg for Gates of Mystery (1993/4) and over 100 objects from The State Hermitage, St Petersburg, for The Genius of Wedgwood (September 2005). The Tretyakov Gallery and Shchusev State Museum of Architecture lent key objects to the V&A exhibitions Modernism: Designing a New World. 1918-1938 (April-July 2006) and Cold War Modern. Design 1945-1970 (September 2008-January 2009).

Advice and Collaboration
The V&A is currently working together with a number of institutions in Russia. The Museum has good connections with Rosphoto, the State Museum and Exhibition Centre for Photography, and has given informal advice to The State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg.

In the context of the exhibition Diaghilev and The Golden Age of the Ballets Russes, 1909-1929, the V&A Theatre and Performance department was invited to advise British architectural practices competing for the rebuilding of Perm Opera House, in Diaghilev’s hometown.

The Museum has a historically good relationship with the Russian Museum in St Petersburg, former V&A Director Sir Mark Jones, was a member of the Russian Museum International Advisory Board. Collaboration continued between colleagues on a curatorial level, with academic advice from senior V&A curators to a State Hermitage exhibition in 2010. In October 2011, V&A staff met with Russian colleagues to discuss the sculpture collections at the V&A and at the Hermitage.

Delegations and Visits
A group of Russian museum professionals visited the Museum of Childhood in May 2012. The study visit enabled museum curators from across the Russian Federation to benefit from UK museum expertise, and to develop organisational and professional links with colleagues in the UK. The Russian Federation Museum and Gallery Curators UK study visit was sponsored by the British Council, Visiting Arts and Vladamor Potanin and project managed in the UK by SRH Arts Management.

Education staff from The Garage exhibition venue, Moscow, have visited the V&A Learning and Interpretation team and received informal advice from the V&A on branding from the V&A Director of Public Affairs.

The V&A Training team hosted twenty MBA students from Moscow University in July 2010 for a business workshop on developing Training and Development strategies for cultural heritage organisations.

V&A Enterprises
V&A Enterprises were invited to present at the second Russian Museums conference held at the Moscow Kremlin Museums, Moscow, in May 2010 to discuss the work of VAE, how it relates to the V&A, and seasonal buying. Four representatives from the Moscow Kremlin Museums, Moscow, participated in a visit to V&A Enterprises in September 2010 to continue discussions on working practices.

Travel with the V&A
Twenty supporters of the V&A participated in a one-week V&A led visit to Moscow and St Petersburg in October 2009. Highlights of the visit included: a reception with the British Ambassador to Russia, Moscow; private tour of The State Hermitage Museum; gala of inaugural Diaghilev festival; access to private collections and curator led tours. The profit generated from this trip enabled the V&A to purchase four costumes for the V&A’s Diaghilev exhibition: costume from 'Le Pas d’Acier’, Diaghilev's Russian 'Constructivist' Ballet designed by Georgi Yakulov, and three costumes from 'Thamar' designed by Leon Bakst. The Museum was also able to acquire prints by contemporary Russian artists as a direct result of this trip.

- Svetlana A. Amelekhina (introduction by Rosalind P Blakesley), Magnificence of the Tsars: Men’s Dress at the Imperial Russian Court 1727-1903. V&A, London, 2010.
- David, Crowley, Posters of the Cold War. V&A, London, 2008.
- Jane Pritchard & Geoffrey Marsh, eds, Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballets Russes, 1909-1929. V&A, London, 2010.