Sunday, February 10, 2008

Review: From Russia at the Royal Academy

The critics have gone ga-ga for the Royal Academy's show of Russian and French masterpieces.

It is one of the most-talked about and highly anticipated exhibitions of recent months as more than 120 masterpieces from Russia's four great state museums have finally arrived in the capital.

Matisse's The Dance (above) was the highlight for me. The work was painted in 1910 for a Moscow sugar merchant and has never been seen before in this country. Other works on show included paintings by Renoir, Cézanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin and Matisse together with those by Kandinsky, Tatlin and Malevich... quite a unique opportunity to explore the fascinating exchange that existed between French and Russian art during a crucial period that was witness to upheaval and revolution.

Of course there is general acknowledgment that a "pretty spectacular" multitude of treasures has arrived, but on the other hand the Guardian's art critic Adrian Searle, asks: who wants one damn masterpiece after another?"

Simon Jenkins, another critic, also picked up on the abundance of Russia's collections writing. "Russia has more works of global appeal than it can handle, yet needs more money to look after a fraction of what it has". He points out that most of these treasures are buried in vaults "which few people alive will ever see".

A great reason, then, to brave the crowds and book a ticket.

From Russia is at the Royal Academy, W1, until April 18

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