One of the most important private modern art collections in the world comes from Russia to the Fondation Vuitton in Paris for an unprecedented look at seldom-seen masterpieces. Here’s a rare opportunity to take in a most exceptional grouping of French modern art with masterpieces by Cézanne, Matisse, Bonnard, Picasso, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Degas, Monet, Renoir, and others.
The Morozov and Shchukin families were at the centre of Moscow’s cultural who’s-who in the early 20th century. The Fondation Louis Vuitton decided to feature the two collections in its “Icons of Modern Art” programme in two parts, the first in 2016 with the acclaimed showing of the Shchukin collection, and now this eagerly awaited second chapter with over 200 works gleaned over the years by brothers Mikhaïl and Ivan Morozov.
As teenagers, the brothers rubbed shoulders with the most influential artists in Russia. The wealth of their textile industry dynasty offered extensive travel opportunities. They dove into the art scene in Paris, where they had a home, and cultivated their taste for emerging styles. Older brother Mikhail had a discerning eye, with an appetite for Impressionist and post-Impressionist works, adding the first two Gauguins and the first Van Gogh to the mix.
Younger brother Ivan’s first interest was in contemporary Russian artists. He was a considered buyer, an amateur artist himself, who sometimes could wait five or six years before getting a painting. After Mikhail passed away, however, Ivan carried the torch for the more adventuresome additions to the collection and would go on to favour Cezanne as his preferred artist. The way the Fondation Vuitton’s curators have styled the showing allows us to read this evolution and how the brothers’ choices shaped this extraordinary meeting of giants that have only grown in stature over time.
Their collection, nationalised in 1918, led to the creation of the world’s first museum of modern art: the State Museum of Modern Western Art which opened in Ivan Morozov’s former Moscow mansion in 1928. The works were later spread out among Russian public institutions: the State Hermitage Museum, the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts and the Tretyakov Gallery, who all collaborated to bring this event to France for the first time. To see these carefully selected pieces come back together again under one roof is surprisingly emotional (just wait till you come upon Van Gogh’s The Prison Yard in a room all unto itself; you’ll see what I mean).
A trip to the Fondation Louis Vuitton is always a treat, and this exhibition is a delightful excuse to plan another visit, and stop for a light lunch at Le Frank restaurant, with Michelin-starred Chef Jean-Louis Nomicos at the helm. As a convenient touch, you can download a free app that allows you to follow the different segments of narration in each room at your own pace on your mobile device.
The Morozov Collection, Icons of Modern Art
Until 22 February 2022
Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris 16th arrondissement
Métro: Les Sablons | Also regular mini-shuttle service to/from Arc de Triomphe