The Voices of André Malraux’s Imaginary Museum

01.12.2016 – 12.02.2017

Main Building

The exhibition «The Voices of André Malraux’s Imaginary Museum» is dedicated to the memory of a man who played a key role in the cultural life of postwar France. Writer and cultural theorist, hero of the French Resistance and Minister of Culture in Charles de Gaulle’s government, André Malraux (1901–1976) attached a lot of importance to the philosophy of art during his entire life.

The first half of the 20th century was the heyday of European art history. During this period, major scholars from different countries wrote voluminous works on the history of world art. Though not an academic scholar, André Malraux had a special visual thinking that allowed him to see common traits in artworks separated by space and time and to sense deep contradictions between artists belonging to the same culture and historical period.

Unlike specialists that viewed the development of art in historical succession, considered Antiquity to be the foundation of Western European art, and believed that Eastern and Ancient civilizations were primitive cultures, Malraux managed to uncover the inherent value of each period of art. This also allowed him to understand the complex and contradictory development of 20th-century art.

At the time when André Malraux published his key essays «The Imaginary Museum» (1947) and «The Voices of Silence» (1951), the practice of multicultural exhibitions was just emerging. In his works, Malraux developed the idea that every work taken out of its cultural context and placed in a museum loses its original meaning. At the same time, the comparison of artworks from different ages and cultures within a museum exposition allows one to take a fresh look at the history of art, reassess periods that had been underestimated previously, and, finally, fully enjoy the aesthetic merits of each work.

Created with the effort and talent of a wonderful scholar and thinker, Malraux’s conception was not an academic project. Monuments of Antiquity and Classicism, ancient idols and 20th-century paintings, Western and Eastern Medieval artworks take part in refined and variegated dialogues and engage in a subtle aesthetic improvisation.
The large-scale exhibition at The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts covers all art periods from Antiquity to the present day. The sections «The Many Faces of Antiquity», «From the Sacral to the Ideal», «From the Ideal to the Real», and «Towards Modernism» incarnate André Malraux’s expositional principles. We recommend that viewers keep in mind Malraux’s words, «Metamorphosis is not a coincidence but rather a law governing the life of artworks.» This exhibition project presents masterpieces from major Russian and European museums as well as works from private collections. A separate section of the exposition is devoted to Malraux’s life.

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