Reunited in Paris for the first time in 70 years, the collection of Sergei Shchukin attracts an audience artistic, fashionable and political
An entire room of Gaugin paintings — sunshine yellow, lush green, coral and blush pink — is an introduction to the exceptional eye of the great Russian collector, Sergei Ivanovich Shchukin, a wealthy Tsarist-era textile entrepreneur and patron of the arts who championed so many French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painters at the turn of the 20th century.
A portrait of Sergei Shchukin by Christian Cornelius Xan Krohn (1916)
More magical, painterly colours represent the studio of Henri Matisse; while angular Pablo Picasso figures appear in a so-called “cell” — even if the area is at the top of the Frank Gehry-designed Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris.
“Icons of Modern Art” is the title of the exhibition of Shchukin’s exceptional eye, who “talent-spotted” the mostly French painters who became the masters of early Modern art. After the Russian Revolution of 1917, the government seized his property, and his collection of 258 works was divided between the Pushkin Museum in Moscow and the Hermitage in St Petersburg.
Speaking at the dinner at the Louis Vuitton Foundation on the opening night of the four-floor exhibition, Bernard Arnault, the Chairman and CEO of LVMH, thanked not only the Russian and French experts who had worked to make this unprecedented show happen and make “the dream become reality”, but also praised the 130,000 LVMH staff whose “work, talent and success” had financed the Foundation and this exceptional show.
The Art Newspaper broke the news in February that the works amassed by Shchukin would be reunited at the Louis Vuitton Foundation for the first time since 1948, as part of the official programme of the France-Russia Year of Cultural Tourism 2016-17. One hundred and thirty Impressionist and Modernist masterpieces, including Gaugin, Van Gogh, Matisse, Picasso, and Russian artists, are displayed over the entire four storeys of the Foundation, with Anne Baldassari as curator.
For the international art world, currently in Paris for FNAC (Fonds National d’Art contemporain), the four-month long Vuitton show is an extraordinary achievement — especially for a private museum that has been open only two years this month.
But the opening night was also an opportunity to bring together the arty side of Le Tout-Paris or “everyone in Paris” — traditionally socialites at the top of the scale.
Over a dinner of delicacies with a Russian flavour from Michelin-starred chef Jean-Louis Nomicos, museum curators from across the world, and particularly from Russia, were matched by the cream of LVMH designers, from Nicolas Ghesquière, Artistic Director of Louis Vuitton; to Maria Grazia Chiuri, Dior’s new designer; and Haider Ackermann, the newly appointed Creative Director of Berluti, managed by Antoine Arnault, son of the LVMH founder.
Actress Léa Seydoux with Nicolas Ghesquière and screen legend Catherine Deneuve
The many other famous faces included actresses Marisa Berenson, Catherine Deneuve, Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux. But it was a tough task to dress for attention when the walls, with their sublime art and extraordinary colours, were the best dressed of all.
Icones de l’Art Moderne: La Collection Chtchoukine (“Icons of Modern Art: The Shchukin Collection”) is at the Fondation Louis Vuitton, 8 avenue de Mahatma Ghandi, Bois de Boulogne, Paris until 20th February 2017; www.fondationlouisvuitton.fr
Michael Burke, Chairman and CEO of Louis Vuitton, with Brigitte Burke, in front of Christian Cornelius Krohn's portrait of the collector of these masterpieces, Sergei Shchukin (1915)
South Korean actress Doona Bae at the "Icons of Modernism" opening, in front of Van Gogh's portrait of Dr Felix Rey (1889)
A vintage photograph of the interior of Shchukin's mansion in Moscow, showing a fraction of his enormous collection after the building and its contents were seized by the Soviet authorities after the 1917 Russian Revolution