Kazan Fine Arts Museum starts new life

After the reconstruction, the main building of the state museum of fine arts of Tatarstan opens the first expositions

Kazan Fine Arts Museum starts new life
Photo: Maksim Platonov

The building of the State Museum of Fine Arts of Tatarstan opened for visitors on 5 June after major reconstruction. Citizens of Kazan could see just a part of unique exhibits that were exhibited and kept in the museum’s collections, on other exhibition platforms for three years. And all they — paintings, engravings, old icons, massive sculptures and elegant statuettes — were back home, in the former Sandetsky Mansion built in 1906 that was refurbished, on 5 June.

First expositions after reconstruction

The museum has been operating full steam since this day, obviously, with restrictions due to the pandemic. Visitors in masks and gloves can see all 15 halls keeping social distancing. Updated expositions opened here solemnly on 4 June. The exhibits themselves are, in effect, are well known and loved by all fans of fine arts. However, after the reconstruction, all halls have had a new life, while the masterpieces presented there have had new facets. An exposition of icons of the 16th-19th centuries still occupies the first halls, some samples of them are provided by the Old Believers’ Community in Kazan. A separate hall is designed for masterpieces of fine and applied arts from founder of the state museum’s treasure pot Andrey Likhachyov’s collection. Famous collections of Russian and Western European art as well as engravings of the 15th-18th centuries occupy a visible place again.

An exposition of icons of the 16th-19th centuries still occupies the first halls, some samples of them are provided by the Old Believers’ Community in Kazan

500 million in art

The reconstruction affected every corner of the museum, from the building’s roof to the mansion’s garden. According to the museum’s Director Rozaliya Nurgaleyeva, the upgraded park is immaculate. Various specialists worked here — landscape designers laid grass carpets, worked hard on century-old trees some of which were falling, the Chebaksa rails were restored, the stairs, benches and the fountain were put in order, the latter even now looks like it used to first, even with cobblestones inside.

The accurate sum of the reconstruction of the main building isn’t named. However, the director confirmed that both buildings — the Modern Art Gallery and the mansion with the park — cost no less than 500 million rubles.

“Now, after the restoration, every thing has its place. The number of exhibits shown at the same time hasn’t reduced,” the director of the museum said before the opening of the expositions. “There is a separate hall with Andrey Likhachyov’s portrait, so we paid tribute to this accumulator and collector. About 60% are items from his collection. Everything has changed for the better. Our colleagues from regions are simply amazed at the reconstruction pace and modernisation of the museum spaces we have. They don’t have it. The depository, restoration workshops were restored, where mobile tables and microscopes appeared, every master has a workplace.”

“Now, after the restoration, every thing has its place. The number of exhibits shown at the same time hasn’t reduced,” Rozaliya Nurgaleyeva said

Ceilings worthy of palace

The museum has had new ceilings, they are called museum or palace ceilings. The State Hermitage has had such dropped ceilings. They are unique not only due to their aesthetic and discreet modern design. Every panel shines, a special lighting mode can be chosen, including necessary areas. All lines, security and fire alarms are also hidden by the ceiling.

According to the director, museum workers and constructors had to fight for every interior and technical solution. However, what a visitor sees today is a result of the agreement of two sides. For instance, big floor fire hose cabinets turned into small boxes in walls. Glass windows hiding statuettes and sculptures are also equipped with spotlights and a special alarm. It is impossible to even open the glass — the sound alarm turns on immediately. There is also climate control for every exhibit.

Glass windows hiding statuettes and sculptures are also equipped with a spotlight and special alarm

No way to steal million

Special attention was paid to protective technologies. Rozaliya Nurgaleyeva reminded us that only once a painting was damaged during 14 years of being the director of the museum — a canvas was scratched. Now, this is impossible because one has to stay a distance from paintings, otherwise, the alarm will sound, moreover, the Russian Guard receives the signal. Neither is it possible to take the painting off the wall, like it was done by characters of the film Grandads-Robbers or use a boomerang like Audrey Hepburn did in How to Steal a Million. The paintings are attached according to the Japanese Arakawa system. Journalists asked her to show how to take the paintings off, for instance, when expositions changed, the director said no:

“Firstly, we can’t show it. Secondly, only one person has the key, and this person is absent here today. The sensors are invisible, but they are many,” so the curious people had to believe what she said.

Fireplaces are the pride of the museum. A hall can be found according to their colours here

Fireplaces are the pride of the museum. A hall can be found according to their colours here. For instance, the white fireplace hall hosts music evenings thanks to the cosiness and intimate atmosphere the small elegant fireplace creates. All 16 ceramic furnaces have been restored as well unique stairs, which are marble and made by Chebaksa technology. A small buffet, souvenir shops, benches, cloakroom have been upgraded, it is planned to open a baby care room.

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By Anna Tarletskaya. Photo: Maksim Platonov
Tatarstan