Irina Antonova, the 91 year old Director of the Pushkin museum, has stepped down from her job, after 52 years. She has held the position since 1961, a mere eight years after the death of Joseph Stalin. She is the oldest and longest serving director of any major art museum. Antonova is however to remain an honorary president of the Museum.
Minister of Culture Vladimir Medina made the announcement on Monday, marking the end of a career which began in an era presided over by Nikita Khrushchev.
The Gallerist and art historian Marian Loshak is to take over as new director starting from July 10. Loshak is current art director of the Manezh Exhibition Hall and is also included on the Council of Experts for the Kandinsky Prize.
Insiders have speculated that Antonova fell out with President Vladimir Putin after a live phone-in show, where she called on the president to restore the State Museum of Modern Western Art, an institution that was disbanded in 1948 at Stalin’s request, for displaying “bourgeois” and “dangerous” works of art by modern masters such as Monet, Renoir and Gauguin. Despite having the backing of some of the art world’s most important names, Antonova’s appeal has angered the top people at the world-famous Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, who would be asked to relinquish some of their most important artworks to stock the proposed new Moscow gallery.
The Hermitage director Mikhail Piotrovsky dismissed Antonova’s request as a regrettable public airing of an internal industry dispute. “This new attempt to break up the Hermitage is a crime against the stability of the whole museum landscape in Russia,” he told the government daily Rossiyskaya Gazeta.
Meanwhile, speaking on Ekho Moskvy radio station, Mikhail Kamensky, head of Sotheby’s in Russia, said that what Moscow was missing was a museum containing more contemporary artworks. “Let’s have the Impressionists, Monet, Cubist art but then let’s have Damien Hirst, Francis Bacon,” he said. “That’s the problem — we don’t have a museum of actual new art … Instead of buying football clubs, we could create new collections or add to existing ones;”He stated.
Speculation of whether Antonova was pushed or resigned is rife on the web. The official line is that she has retired because of her age but insiders think she was pushed.