Think of tobacco factories and Bizet’s “Carmen” springs to mind. Was Malaga’s historic Fabrica de Tabacos (Tobacco Factory) constructed in the 1920’s such a noisy hotbed of intrigue, gossip and passion as its counterpart in Seville? Today it is much calmer as it continues its development as a museum and cultural centre, with the arrival of the St Petersburg State Russian Museum in 2300 sq m of remodelled space, sitting alongside and above the Automobile Museum which houses the Joao Magalhaes collection of 20th and 21st century vintage motor vehicles.
Malaga’s branch of the St Petersburg State Russian Museum, opened on 25th March and, like the Centre Pompidou Malaga combines permanent galleries and temporary exhibitions.
The permanent galleries connect across two of the old buildings by a discrete glass bridge and show around 100 works from between the fifteenth and twentieth centuries, selected to provide a balanced overview of the development of Russian art over those five centuries. The works on display start with icons in the traditional Byzantine style, illustrate periods of cross-fertilisation between Russian and European art and periods where Russian art developed its own independent. The permanent exhibition of the Collection of the Russian Museum, St. Petersburg/Malaga is divided into nine thematic areas: the old Russian art, the XVIII century, Romanticism in Russia, Realism, Realism with Russian topics, the movement of “World of Art” and Neoprimitivism, the Avant-garde, Socialist Realism and art in the Melting Era that was experienced after the death of Stalin. Artists on display include Vasily Kandinsky, Kazimir Malevich, Ilya Repin, Aleksandr Rodchenko, and Vladimir Tatlin
The current temporary exhibition introduces the work of Pavel Filonov who is not as well-known has his contemporaries, perhaps due to his untimely death from starvation during the 1941 siege of Leningrad, but whose abstract figures are fascinating and magical, full of images that perhaps link to the lives and personality of the people shown in the paintings. His “Heads” series in particular are imaginative and highly detailed works where background and figures merge together, people turn into animals while ideas are formed within their minds and where the viewer is fully engaged in exploring what might be going on inside their heads.
This new Museum is a great introduction to Russian art over the last five centuries and, if the programme of temporary exhibitions continues to be as good as this one, will introduce a whole body of Russian art that is new to European audiences.