On Monday July 1, Vladimir Medinsky, Russia’s culture minister, announced that Irina Antonova, who was the director of the major museum of fine arts in Russia – Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts – for the last 52 years (from 1961 to 2013), would be leaving her post. From this time she has been appointed president of the museum.
A lot of descriptions of this situation have already been made, and the one that is the most popular reads “the end of an era”.
For my generation, the name Irina Antonova is something so constant and undoubted that it is difficult to find a comparable example! Essentially since the moment I knew that the largest and most important museum of European art in Russia is under the name of Pushkin I knew that the director is Antonova!
Irina Antonova came to work at the Pushkin Museum in the year the Second World War ended. She was a very powerful professional (once she brought the Mona Lisa to the Soviet Union) and a very powerful lady as well: Marc Chagall, Franco Zeffirelli, and Svjatoslav Richter were among her admirers.
Irina Antonova’s fine reputation in the museum community helped to bring unique masterpieces of international art from the largest art collections to the museum, works which are extremely rarely issued abroad. These include the “Anthea” by Parmigianino (Museum of Capodimonte, Naples, 2007), “The Holy Family” by Mantegna (Dresden State Assembly, 2009), and the portrait “The Man with Grey Eyes” by Titian (Palatine Gallery, Florence, 2008).
While it is usually very difficult to assess the situation if you are not inside, I asked for a comment from my friend Polina Mogilina who has been working at the museum for almost five years since we graduated from university: “Of course, the resignation of Irina Antonova who held the post of director of the Pushkin Museum for more than 50 years, marks the beginning of a new era in the history of the museum. And we hope that the combined work of the tandem Antonova as president of the museum and the new director Marina Loshak will generate a connection between tradition and new ideas in a way that fruitfully affects the life of the museum and its development, which is so important today.”
For me, this answer fully reflects the wary but overt expectations of the public for the future of the museum.