Thursday, January 04, 2007

Visiting Pushkin

Today I tore myself away from my latest passion, Fort Boyard (10.35 am daily on Telecanal Sport, everyone!), a Russian reality show where they have to solve tasks to storm this castle. Like those crazy Japanese shows we watched that time, Dad, except slightly less nuts and in teams. Anyway, I enjoy Fort Boyard because I can understand everything except when they solve puzzles in Russian, which isn't all that often, so it's fun for the whole non-Russian speaking family. As I was saying, I tore myself away from Fort Boyard (it was difficult) to go to the State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts.

The Pushkin, as we'll call it for convenience' sake, houses the Moscow collections of Western art (as opposed to the Russian collections in the Tretyakovs). It is, of course, overshadowed by the Hermitage, but it has some good stuff. It was originally founded as a collection of plaster casts of great sculptures from around the world. Yes, that seems like a stupid idea for a museum to me, too, but there you go. The idea, as I understand it, was that Russian sculptors, art historians, students, etc. etc. might never get to go to Greece or Italy or wherever, so let's bring the sculptures to them. This part of the gallery is kinda interesting, I suppose, but I just can't get over the fact of them all being replicas. Probably if you sat me down in front of one without telling me, I would be suitably impressed by its artistic merit - but once I know it's a fake, that's it. I suppose it's like those very good forgeries which have people raving about 're-discovered' Vermeers or what have you, until it's discovered they're fake and people don't care about them any more. Are they any the less beautiful because they're not actually by Vermeer? But in point of fact, a plaster statue is less beautiful than a marble, so perhaps that's a specious argument... I also don't know how they managed to cast things like the entire Maenaed (sp?) porch bit of the Parthenon. The logistics are beyond me.

But that's not all that's in the Pushkin. There are some nice Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Babylonian etc. exhibits (the real deal, this time). I was delighted to find out when googling the details for the museum yesterday that it houses the Troy treasure unearthed by Schliemann. Who knew? Anyway, it used to be in Berlin, but it disappeared at the end of WWII. For about 50 years later, the communists all went, "What treasure? We've never even heard of Troy!" until it suddenly popped up in the Pushkin in the 1990s. Apparently the Germans want it back, which seems to be risky territory to me, because if you're demanding that these sorts of things be given back, shouldn't it really be returned to the Turks or whatever? Unfortunately, the gold mask of Agamemnon isn't there, I think it's in Greece somewhere, but there was some nice stuff, like the gold jewellery in this picture:
which is actually very thinly-beaten gold, it looks like it would be very heavy in the photo, but it's a lot finer in real life. There actually wasn't that much stuff, and I know there's all sorts of questions about its authenticity, but still, it was somehow more thrilling seeing the stuff from Troy than the artifacts from ancient Greece or Egypt.

There were also many rooms with medieval art, Renaissance art, and 17th & 18th century art (the latter of which I find distinctly boring on the whole). Not so many really outstanding pieces, but still, a nice collection, worth a visit.

They currently have an exhibition on masks from around the world - Venetian carnivale masks, Polynesian masks, African masks, ancient Greek masks, Egyptian funerary masks, Chinese and Japanese theatrical masks, etc. etc. Plus mask-themed paintings, which was a bit odd.

The best part (well, not the best part, but you know) was that it's housed in three buildings, so you pay one price and you can visit all of them BUT you don't have to see them all on one day, so I left before museum fatigue set in too badly, and I can go back any time I like and see the collections of 19th & 20th century art (which are apparently really good, especially if you like French impressionists, which I don't particularly, but whatever) and there's another building as well, but I don't know what's in there.

Anyway, that was what I got up to today. And here's some assorted things I forgot to blog about earlier:

  • Melani and I went to have lunch in a food court in a mall the other day. I picked out my lunch (70 roubles, excellent) and went to pay. Then I found out that they weighed your food and it was actually 70 roubles per 100 grams, making a grand total of 360 roubles!!! This is almost NZ $20, for lunch at a food court, besides being more expensive than it costs to get into the Kremlin churches, where we'd just been. At one stage in my life, I probably would have meekly paid, but I've grown a teensy amount of backbone, so I managed to go 'Net!' and flee the scene of the crime. Don't tell anyone, but I'd already given the food a speculative prod with my finger to see if it was warm, ha ha.
  • The other day, the metro was so packed I couldn't actually manage to get off at my stop. And this stupid fat woman stood right in front of me, saying something, I don't know what. I assume "Do you want to get off?" or something. In which case, what do you bloody well think? I'm trying to push past you and pointing wildly in the direction of the closing doors, you moron! And then on another day I was in a crowd of people exactly like that You Tube video my mum posted a link to a while back. The problems are always the escalators - they just funnel people from a wide space into a very narrow one, so there's inevitable delays. The crowd in question had to go from one escalator, through a passageway, then on another escalator, and it was insanely packed and moving at a very slow shuffle. Most unpleasant!
Can't remember if I had anything else worthy of comment. I'm always thinking of things to share with my ever-dwindling (Mum's on holiday) pool of readers, but then I usually forget again. Anyway, later...


  1. Aha mum's reading today!
    Had a few good laughs at various recent postings, thanks Jo!
    Mum xxx



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