February 1, 2009 | The Victoria and Albert Museum in London celebrates Magnificence of the Tsars with a sumptuous display of men's ceremonial attire from the Russian imperial court on loan from the Moscow Kremlin Museums' collections. What could be more fitting in the British capital that is currently nicknamed Londongrad or Moscow-on-the Thames for its several hundred thousand Russian émigrés and its dominant role in the market for Russian objects and art? However, in the wake of the recent economic crisis, during which the Russian stock exchange plunged by more than 65 percent of its value since May, and huge portions of the November Russian sales in London failed to sell, one wonders if this exhibition constitutes a belated finale to the boon for things Russian? Or does it hint that the Russian presence in the art world cannot be snuffed out by one mere blip on the radar-even a seemingly cataclysmic one?
According to Lesley Miller, senior curator of textiles and fashion at the Victoria and Albert, the show originated with a proposal for an exchange made to them by the Kremlin back in 2005, not long after the Russian market had exploded. Experts concur that the Russian industrialist Victor Vekselberg's splashy purchase of Malcolm Forbes's entire Fabergé collection in February 2004, two months before its scheduled auction at Sotheby's in New York, marked this sea change. Renowned Fabergé expert Géza von Habsburg summarizes, "Prices rose slowly until the oligarchs made an appearance at the London auctions in November 2003; then, after the sale of the Forbes collection, they rose astronomically until the end of 2007."
[Compiled by Claudia J. Nahson, Morris and Eva Feld Curator at the Jewish Museum, New York. Originally published in "Curator's Eye" in Modern Magazin» View All