The National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus

Indirizzo: Minsk, Lenina street, 20
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More than twenty seven thousand works of art – creating twenty miscellaneous collections and comprising two main representative ones:  the one of national art and the other of monuments of art of the countries and nations of the world – can be found on exposition, at the branches of the Museum and its depositories.

The Museum’s official history begins on January, 24 in 1939 when under the Resolution of the Council of People’s Commissars of the BSSR the State Art Gallery has been created in Minsk. It was located in the fifteen halls of the Highest Communist Agricultural School’s edifice.

It is surprising how during such a short time so much was done for the accumulation of the museum pieces: the most valuable works of cult art from the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches were removed and registered at the Museum; large funds of painting, graphics as well as decorative and applied arts were collected by the Museum personnel.

The works of art, taken from the departments of fine arts of the historical museums of Minsk, Vitebsk, Mogilev and Gomel, became the foundation of the Gallery’s pictorial collection. A range of art works from their own funds and stocks were presented by the State Tretyakov Gallery and the Russian Museum as well as by the Museum of Fine Arts named after Alexander Pushkin and the State Hermitage Museum. The art works of well-known Russian painters and artists of the Soviet epoch were included into the collection of the new gallery as well.

After the World War II merely a small part of the works of art was returned, mainly those which before the War had been at the exhibitions in Russia (for instance, Bust of Prince Pyotr Rumyantsev-Zadunaisky made by Fedot Shubin) or which at the end of the War had been found by the Soviet soldiers in the cities of the Eastern Prussia (the collection of the portraits from Nesvizh) as well as in ravaged Minsk (“A Miner with a Light Bulb” by Nikolay Kasatkin, “Autumn” by Isaak Levitan, “Spring’s Morning” by Vladimir Kudrevich, which turned out to have been left by the Fascists in an unfinished building of the CC of the CPB).

The museum staff had to begin anew. The second stage of the Museum’s history is connected with the period of 33 years of a selfless work of Elena Aladova (1907–1986) – an Honoured Art Worker of the BSSR, the Director of the Gallery from 1944 – who before the War had been in charge of the Department of Russian and Belarusian Art.

In 1946 the funds had already numbered 317 works of art. In November of the following year the permanent exhibition – which occupied five halls on the first floor of the House of Trade Unions – was opened. Although being given extra space, the Gallery was badly in need of extension. The city being still in ruins, Elena Aladova obtained the permission for the construction of a special building for the Gallery. The projecting and designing of the new building was entrusted to a young architect, a veteran of the War – Mikhail Baklanov (1914–1990).

It is possible to judge about the original idea of the architect by the watercolor sketch of 1949. Baklanov realized the project in the traditions of the Russian Empire style – a typical trend of the “triumphal” architecture of the late 1940s – early 1950s. It was expected that the two-storey mansion with a row of semicircular windows and a portico with light pawns would be situated upland at the corner of Lenin and Kirov Streets with its facade towards Ulyanov Street. The broad stairway was to have led to it through the stepped terraces of green lawns. According to the idea of the architect the future Museum should have had a festive holiday-like appearance. However, the Museum site was transferred to a small area at Lenin Str. with an already formed building.

The majority of the Russian painting funds come from private collections. Following the advice of Igor Grabar, Aleksey Fyodorov-Davydov, the well-known artists – Aleksey and Pavel Korin, Vladimir Favorsky and Pyotr Konchalovsky, Elena Aladova managed to obtain Russian art works of high-class from the private collections of the singer Lidia Ruslanova, the ballet dancer Yekaterina Geltzer, the actor Ivan Moskvin and other well-known collectors from Moscow and Leningrad. The collection of Russian art (more than 5 thousand exhibits) can rival many Russian museums in its completeness and unity.

A museum is not only pictures and canvases, but it is also represented by people. It is due to their efforts that new masterpieces are being created, exhibitions are being organized, books and catalogues are being published, and works of art are being preserved, restored and advertised to the public. Nowadays the Museum has a staff of more than two hundred people.

Like any living creature, the Museum is continuously growing by enlarging its funds. The collection of the prerevolutionary Russian and Belarusian, of West-European, of Oriental, and of the Soviet Belarusian art nowadays includes more than 30 thousand works of art.

The Museum has entered the 21st century having excellent prospects of its further development and conversion into the largest exhibition complex in the Republic with a considerable research potential and restoration resources.

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