The Morozov Collection: Icons of Modern Art – the unique and landmark exhibit to visit opens in Paris on 22 September 2021

20 September

The Louis Vuitton Fondation will make the headlines in the coming days, and for a good reason. For the first time in history, the extraordinary Morozov Collection of Modern Art is to be shown outside Russia. Before opening on 22 September of this year, the exhibit required five years of preparations, negotiations at the highest political level, and a tremendous amount of work from the Foundation’s staff in collaboration with the State Hermitage Museum, the Pushkin State Museum of Fine arts, and the State Tretyakov Gallery. The exhibit was scheduled to open in October 2020, but the Covid situation made it impossible. So, it is opening its doors in September and will remain open for 5 months.

It is an exhibition focusing on French and Russian works of art gathered in the early 20th century by two brothers, Mikhail and Ivan Morozov, industrialists and businessmen.

So, let us go back in history, to Russia, before the Russian Revolution. According to historians, the Morozov dynasty, which became one of the most eminent in Russia, began with five roubles, which permitted the ancestor serf to buy his freedom and to start a ribbon factory, laying the ground for the family dynasty. From the 1870s and up to the Russian Revolution, traditional Russian society went through many changes, and the Morozov brothers participated actively in forging a new economic, social and cultural world in which modern Russian and Western art played an important role. Ivan studied chemistry at the Zurich Polytechnic University, in Switzerland, in the 1890s, and had already started to collect contemporary Russian art. His elder brother Mikhail, on the other hand, had established friendly relations with Parisian art dealers and had rented an apartment in one of Paris’s exclusive neighbourhoods.

We should mention that the Morozov brothers, since their young days, had been in contact with influential Russian artists who attended the salon hosted by their mother, Varvara. So, while Mikhail was assembling an original collection of artworks by Manet, Corot, Monet, Degas, Gaugin and Van Gogh, just to mention a few, it was thanks to Ivan that these artists became known in Russia. When Mikhail died in 1903, his collection numbered thirty-nine artworks by French artists, and forty-four by Russian ones. After his brother’s death, Ivan continued in his brother’s footsteps and continued to travel to Paris and acquire artwork from French artists. In 1903 he bought his first painting by Sisley, and this led him into French impressionism. Later he acquired works by Pissarro, Renoir, Manet and others. Up to the Revolution, the Morozov collection was open for visitors free of charge on Sundays.

After the second Russian Revolution, the so-called October Revolution, the Morozov factories and artworks were confiscated. By that time, Ivan had collected four hundred and thirty Russian works, and two hundred and fifty French works. He left Russia in June 1919 and emigrated to Switzerland. He passed away on 22 July 1921, aged 49 years old, just a couple of weeks after the Bolsheviks had declared that Russians living outside Russia were no longer citizens.

So, thanks to their love of art, we are today able to see this unique collection of with more than 200 works of art. It is definitely one of the most impressive collections of modern art that one can see in a lifetime. So, reserve your tickets for Paris, and visit this unique collection. You will definitely not regret it!

Fondation Louis Vuitton
8 avenue du Mahatma Gandi,
Bois de Bologne, Paris

MF
September 2021