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In 1882, private collector Pavel Tretyakov created this gallery—the country's main repository of Russian art—by presciently donating his collection to the state. (Other private collections were forcibly nationalized, and some of those ended up here, too.) The museum now owns over 130,000 works of painting, sculpture, and graphics. Tretyakov favored works of the Peredvizhniki (or Itinerants), artists such as Ilya Repin and Vasily Perov whose realist paintings often contained controversial social commentary. The museum's main building is a neo–Russian-style structure with red gingerbread and dashes of Art Nouveau, across the river from the Kremlin. The masterpieces here range from Andrei Rublev's sublime 15th-century Old Testament Trinity icon to Repin's classic 19th-century portrait of Leo Tolstoy. A Russian Orthodox church, located within the gallery, houses another prized Russian icon: the 12th-century Vladimir Mother of God. Special exhibitions are held in the Engineer Wing, next door to the main building, and in an elegant hall on Maly Tolmachevsky Pereulok behind it. Twentieth-century art is displayed in a vast (and to some eyes very ugly) late-Soviet building on nearby Krymsky Val. The permanent exhibition there includes avant-garde paintings by Malevich, socialist realist depictions of Stalin, and Nonconformist works by underground artists, including Sots art, the unofficial Soviet counterpart to Pop art. Outside, in the Park of Arts, statues of Stalin, Brezhnev, and other Soviet leaders that were taken down after the collapse of communism are displayed alongside a monument to Stalin's Terror. Plans to tear down the building on Krymsky Val have been circulating for years, and have also led to protests; so far, everything is still standing.
Open Tuesdays through Sundays 10 am to 7:30 pm (the ticket office and entrance close at 6:30 pm).
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