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London and Moscow share their masterpieces

The news that London’s National Portrait Gallery (‘NPG’) and Moscow’s State Tretyakov Gallery will exchange a range of masterpieces this year suggests to me that the underlying channels of cooperation which exist between these two nations of art lovers are still as important as ever.

On March 17th, 2016, an exhibition entitled Russia and the Arts: The Age of Tolstoy and Tchaikovsky opened at London’s National Portrait Gallery. As reported in an article in the Independent last year, the exhibition will include the likes of Chekhov, Dostoyevsky and St Petersburg poet Anna Akhmatova. A total of 26 works will be presented at the exhibition.

The Director of the London gallery, Nicholas Cullinan, said that the exhibition is scheduled to mark the 160th anniversary since the opening of the gallery.

In response, on April 23rd, 2016, Moscow’s State Tretyakov Gallery will host an exhibition called From Elizabeth to Victoria which will feature portraits of famous British personalities. The exhibition will include portraits of Elizabeth I and Newton but according to News Republic, the most anticipated work is the “Chandos portrait” of William Shakespeare.

The news has attracted the attention of the Russian-speaking media as well as many prominent individuals who have noted the symbolism of this cultural exchange. The London edition of Moskovsky Komsomolets quotes Moscow’s Ambassador to Britain stating that culture remains the primary solid link between the two nations. This view is echoed by Zelfira Tregulova, the Director of the Tretyakov Gallery.

This exchange is not an isolated event; back in December the British Museum lent a selection of the Elgin Marbles to St Petersburg’s State Hermitage, a key event which – as I noted here at the time – highlighted the importance of cultural ties.

The proud heritage of these institutions should remind us of the deeper historical relationship between Russia and Britain. The exchange between Moscow and London reveals both countries’ mutual appreciation for the arts, an appreciation which has – and will again – continue to create a cultural bridge over troubled water.


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