The Book Launch of Oleg Kushnirskiy’s Icon Collection Catalog
We are delighted to share the exciting news that the book launch of “Russian Icons from the Mid-17th to Early 20th Centuries: The Collection of Oleg Kushnirskiy” took place on April 26th at the Mikhail Abramov Museum of Russian Icons.
The Book Launch of Oleg Kushnirskiy’s Icon Collection Catalog
Art historians, museum workers, friends, and colleagues of Oleg Kushnirskiy, who had flown in from New York to attend the event, gathered at an atmospheric mansion on Goncharnaya Street in central Moscow. Ilya Kushnirskiy, the director of Oleg Kushnirskiy’s collection was also present. The event was moderated by Sergei Bogatyrev, the museum’s deputy director for public relations.
The guests examined copies of the freshly printed catalog, which still carried the smell of ink, and shared their impressions with each other. Many warm and significant words were spoken. Nikolay Zadorozhny, the director of the Museum of Russian Icon, opened the evening by expressing gratitude to the Kushnirskiy family for “collecting those beautiful works piece by piece while being so far from Russia, and seeking them out from emigrants and at auctions.” He emphasized that “with the publication of the catalog, many monuments have been introduced to the academic community.
Sergey Khodorkovskiy, a close friend of Oleg Kushnirskiy and a Russian icon expert, congratulated him on the book’s release, saying, “Russian icons are a unique area in the history of art and collecting. Once a person comes into contact with them, they become captivated and can no longer remain indifferent. That’s what happened to Oleg. The value of this collection lies in the fact that it was entirely assembled abroad, which is quite a feat.”
Dr. Alek D. Epstein, a Russian-Israeli sociologist of culture and politics and author of one of the scholarly articles in the catalog, wrote a welcoming letter together with historian Dmitry Sanoyan specifically for the book launch. Among other things, he noted the high professional level of the restoration work. Dmitry Sanoyan read the text to the attendees. “Oleg Kushnirskiy dedicated significant resources to restoring a large number of icons that comprised his collection. In Russia, he enlisted the expertise of specialists from The State Research Institute for Restoration to determine the best approach to attributing each icon. Victor Ivanovich Khromin, an artist who resided in the United States from 1991 and possessed a deep understanding of the Old Church Slavonic language as well as stylistic and genre features of Russian icon painting, carried out restoration work on nearly all of the works in Oleg Kushnirskiy’s collection. Khromin’s contributions were instrumental in shaping the collection.”
The authors also stressed the significance of Oleg Kushnirskiy’s and other similar collections as a cultural bridge between Russia and the West. According to them, this book is “not only for the present but also for the future,” when the current phase of confrontation is over, and it is necessary to restore the broken links.
Then the translator of the book, Sergei Brun from the Museums of the Moscow Kremlin, took the stage. He presented a letter from Anna Ivannikova, the author of the catalog and the introductory article. Anna is a specialist in Russian icon painting from the 18th to early 20th centuries and an expert of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation. She also serves as the keeper of the collection of late Russian icon painting at the State Hermitage Museum.
“In 2016, Oleg Kushnirskiy asked me to write texts about icons from his collection for the Russian Icon Collection website. Little did I know that this project would lead to the publication of a comprehensive book. Today, we are presenting the catalog at the Museum of Russian Icons, which is the culmination of Oleg Kushnirskiy’s thirty years of collecting, a complete publication of the entire collection.”
Anna Ivannikova’s letter focused on the artistic characteristics of the collection, which consists primarily of pieces crafted in the icon-painting villages of the Vladimir province between the 17th and early 20th centuries.
“It’s wonderful that today, unique monuments of Russian art are emerging from oblivion that for a long time were not of interest to anyone,” remarked Sergei Brun. “Oleg Kushnirsky has done an important, painstaking job in collecting this magnificent collection with great difficulty, despite being on the other side of the ocean.”
Oleg Kushnirskiy was visibly touched by the warm reception and kind words, admitting that he had only laid eyes on the book that day.
“I am deeply grateful to everyone who made this book a reality,” Oleg expressed. “I would like to extend my thanks to the Museum of Russian Icons, our trusted friend and partner, who supported us throughout the catalog’s creation and provided a venue for the book launch.”
The formal, yet heartfelt portion of the program came to a close with Alexei Lidov’s address.
“We are witnessing an interesting phenomenon. The political and social events that we observe today will be a turning point in our lives and the lives of millions,” said Alexei Lidov. “At the same time, many amazing things are happening that we never even thought about before. I think private icon collections are a sign of the times. Their founders contribute to the preservation of Russian culture, and by acknowledging them, we pay tribute to these people and their work. I am sure that Oleg Kushnirskiy’s collection will play an important cultural role.”
The program continued with a baroque music concert by the cello duo of Alexander Listratov, a laureate of international competitions and the leader of the “Golden Age” baroque ensemble, and Asia Adiatulina, a soloist of the State Symphony Capella of Russia.
After the concert, the guests lingered for a while to the accompaniment of live piano music, engaging in lively discussions with Oleg and Ilya Kushnirskiy about what they had just witnessed and expressing the hope that they would be able to see the collection soon.