MOSCOW — Irina A. Antonova, a commanding artwork historian who led Moscow’s Pushkin State Museum of Superb Arts for greater than a half century, used it to convey outdoors tradition to remoted Soviet residents and turned it into a significant cultural establishment, died in Moscow on Tuesday. She was 98.
The trigger was coronary heart failure sophisticated by a coronavirus an infection, the museum stated.
Ms. Antonova steered the museum by means of the isolationist and inflexible cultural insurance policies of the Soviet Union and into the interval following the autumn of Communism. Lately, she expanded it to adjoining buildings — typically angering their tenants — to accommodate mushrooming exhibitions.
From early on, Ms. Antonova used her inexhaustible vitality to construct connections with the world’s main museums. She introduced Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa from the Louvre in 1974. A whole bunch of 1000’s of individuals stood in lengthy strains to see it, the one queues the Soviet authorities was pleased with on the time. Many knew that with the nation’s borders shut, it may be the only alternative to see the well-known work throughout their lifetime.
Exhibitions of 100 work from the Metropolitan Museum of Artwork in New York and of the treasures of Tutankhamen additional opened the world to Soviet folks.
The Pushkin museum on Ms. Antonova’s watch additionally exhibited summary and avant-garde works by Russian and worldwide artists. That was typically unimaginable in a rustic the place an unofficial artwork present was as soon as damaged up with the assistance of a bulldozer, and whose chief Nikita Khrushchev, whereas visiting an exhibition of recent Soviet artwork in 1962, shouted that some summary work had been made with a “donkey’s tail” and that even his grandson may do higher.
The museum in 1981 hosted “Moscow-Paris, 1900-1930,” a landmark exhibition that blended works by French artists like Matisse and Picasso along with highlights of the Russian avant-garde of the time, together with works by Chagall, Malevich and Kandinsky. The exhibition confirmed how Russian artists slot in nicely with Western European tendencies and the way they often helped type them.
Because of her Bolshevik father, Ms. Antonova had the pedigree that made it simpler for her to barter with Soviet cultural bureaucrats. Utilizing her appeal and wit, Ms. Antonova was in a position to rework what was nonetheless largely a group of plaster casts of well-known statues right into a complete museum worthy of a significant capital.
“We had been allowed to do issues that had been by no means allowed elsewhere,” Ms. Antonova stated in a documentary movie devoted to the museum’s a hundredth anniversary. “It was very straightforward to ban. They didn’t even must do a lot, whereas we had been nonetheless allowed to do one thing.”
After the Soviet collapse, Ms. Antonova continued her quest of bringing Russia nearer to the skin world with exhibitions of Joseph Beyus and Alberto Giacometti amongst others.
She additionally moved to uncover artwork treasures that had been seized by the Soviet military in Germany in the course of the struggle and hidden within the museum’s depositaries. Nevertheless, critics faulted her for transferring slowly and even for failing to acknowledge their existence. However Ms. Antonova argued that it could have been unimaginable to behave in the course of the Soviet interval.
Russian President Vladimir V. Putin stated Ms. Antonova deserved skilled and public acclaim, having “served Russian tradition with inspiration” as a “devoted professional, fanatic and educator.”
Irina Aleksandrovna was born on March 20, 1922, in Moscow. Her father, Aleksandr A. Antonov, was an electrician who later grew to become the top of a analysis institute; her mom was Ida M. Heifits, who labored in a printing home.
She moved along with her household in 1929 to Germany when her father was despatched to work on the Soviet Embassy. She lived there for 4 years, studying German and buying a style for European tradition.
Throughout World Conflict II, Ms. Antonova skilled as a nurse and cared for Soviet pilots, a lot of whom had been severely injured, in Moscow hospitals.
She later graduated from Moscow State College and was despatched to work on the Pushkin museum shortly earlier than the struggle ended. The museum had been based in 1912 by rich retailers; when she arrived, the constructing had no heating and its glass roof had collapsed throughout bombings.
“In 1945 she started to work within the Pushkin museum with a deep conviction that tradition and artwork don’t have any borders: short-term, geographical, nationwide,” Olga L. Sviblova, a pal and director of the Multimedia Artwork Museum in Moscow, stated. “She defended these convictions beneath Stalin, Khrushchev, Brezhnev, Gorbachev and in the course of the 30 years that she lived and labored in new Russia.”
She was appointed the museum’s first girl director in 1961 and occupied the submit till 2013, when she grew to become president and relinquished day-to-day administration to focus on strategic improvement. Her total tenure in varied roles spanned 75 years.
Throughout Soviet occasions, Ms. Antonova herself was fortunate to have the ability to journey, however she stated that she typically cried when leaving an Italian metropolis, understanding it may be her final time there.
Ms. Antonova grew to become a towering cultural determine. Along with the acclaimed Soviet pianist Sviatoslav Richter, she started internet hosting a collection of concert events contained in the museum’s expansive halls each December. The concert events, referred to as December Evenings, are nonetheless a few of the most sought-after performances in Moscow.
Her husband, the artwork historian Yevsey I. Rotenberg, died in 2011. She is survived by her son Boris.
“It’s onerous to think about the Pushkin museum with out Irina Antonova, who become its irrevocable half, its face, its image — part of its delusion,” stated Marina D. Loshak, Ms. Antonova’s successor because the museum’s director.