The Bar-Gera Collection of Russian Art: Reviving the Forgotten Past
History reveals itself in strange ways. There is so little people can say for sure when it comes to annals of time, and what is known is always open to debate. It is in the power of men and women to recover historical truth and shed light on the events that were once crucial yet forgotten. So is the story assembled and described in the bilingual edition of “Israelis from Cologne, Defenders of Russian Art: The Life and Collection of Kenda and Jacob Bar-Gera” by Alek D. Epstein and Sofia Birina. The book tells an untold story of Polish-born Israelis – Kenda and Jacob Bar-Gera – and their passion for preserving art. It was their unique collection of Russian art that became one of the most significant collections of Russian non-conformist art from the Cold War era.
The untold story of the Bar-Gera collection of Russian Art
The Bar-Gera collection of Russian art is closely tied to the life story of Kenda and Jacob Bar-Gera and their love for visual art. The paradox is that the couple visited Russia only once in the 1980s, but it didn’t stop them from building one of the best collections of uncensored Soviet art in Cologne where they lived. At that time, there were no official diplomatic relations between the Federal Republic of Germany and Israel, nor between Israel and the Soviet Union.
What makes the Bar-Gera collection of Russian art unique is its museum-level quality and diversity. It features works by a wide array of artists. Among them are Mikhail Shvartsman, Dmitry Krasnopevtsev, Vladimir Nemukhin, Vladimir Yankilevsky, Grigory Bruskin, and many more. After the death of the couple, their children decided to sell most of the art pieces at Sotheby’s in 2016. It happened due to the sad fact that they didn’t manage to find a museum interested in buying the entire collection. That is how the artworks ended up in different art collections around the world and became lost to Israel probably forever.
The book has become possible thanks to the joint efforts of the art logistics company Fine Art Shippers and the children of the late art lovers and collectors – Rivka Sum, Shlomit Feiner, and Dov Bar-Gera. They gave the authors access to the family archive and helped shed light on the forgotten events of the past in a series of interviews. It is worth mentioning that the Russian edition of the book will be issued by the Dean Publishing House in Saint-Petersburg, which is known for its art books, while the English edition is planned to be released in Israel.
Russian Icon Collection values the high historical and cultural importance of the upcoming book release. Not only does the edition unravel the story of Kenda and Jacob Bar-Gera and the unparalleled result of their life’s work, but it also shows how the story of one collection of Russian art has become a symbol of unity and power of human love.
Image: Kenda and Jacob Bar-Gera at their home, Cologne, Germany, 1998