Our project, founded by collector and entrepreneur Oleg Kushnirskiy, is dedicated to researching and promoting Russian Orthodox icons.
As a true professional in this specific form of religious art, Oleg Kushnirskiy was able to appreciate the beauty, sanctity, and uniqueness of Russian icons even during times when they were not a top priority for most people in both Soviet and post-Soviet Russia.
A photographer by profession, Oleg traveled across the USSR, taking photographs for the Russian National Library. One of his assignments was to show authentic rural life in the distant Russian countryside, where he first fell in love with the Russian Orthodox icons, which he encountered in many homes. Elderly religious people shared with him the true meaning of icons, their spiritual aspect, and their eternal beauty. Unfortunately, this was not the best time for becoming a collector. However, as soon as Oleg moved to the United States and began working at a flea market, selling antique items, he could recognize valuable Russian icons among other objects. Over time, he became not only a dealer but also a prominent collector. Today, Oleg Kushnirskiy is an outstanding expert and appraiser of old Russian icons. His specialization covers icon painting from the 16th to 19th centuries, and his impressive personal collection of Orthodox icons, built around Russian holidays, includes items dating back to the 17th century.
Oleg Kushnirskiy’s collection of Russian icons began to take shape in the United States during the 1990s. It comprises rare examples of Orthodox religious art from the 18th and 19th centuries, created in ancient icon painting traditions. Most of them come from icon-painting villages in the Vladimir region, such as Palekh, Mstyora, and Kholuy, while others come from the Old Believer communities of Guslitsy and Vetka, as well as workshops in central Russia. A special place in the collection belongs to small-sized icons decorated with miniature stamps. Among them are scenes of the Resurrection — the Harrowing of Hades, miracles, religious holidays, images of saints, and revered icons of the Mother of God.
This collection of icons represents a little-known aspect of Russian culture and illustrates the tumultuous journey of these artworks throughout the 20th century, as they were brought to America and Europe through several waves of emigration from Soviet Russia.
The collection was cataloged by recognized professionals in this field: Anna Ivannikova, a specialist in Russian icon painting of the 18th-20th centuries, and collector Sergey Khodorkovskiy. Its value lies not only in the icons themselves but also in its conceptual thoughtfulness and completeness. While reflecting the interests of its founder, the collection offers a new perspective on Russian icon painting, thereby enriching and supplementing the understanding of its history and artistic value. It forms part of an emerging new chapter in the history of icon painting research focused on the art of the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries.