The last time I saw Irina Aleksandrovna Antonova was at the beginning of March last year at the opening of the exhibition at the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts "Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud and the London School". Not long before the event, in her presidential office, Irina Aleksandrovna told Novye Izvestia about the creation of the legendary museum, about the beginning of her work and about the daughter of the founder of the museum - Ivan Tsvetayev - Marina Ivanovna Tsvetayeva.
Irina Aleksandrovna spoke very modestly about herself, about her amazing ability to work (practically until the end of her life, she was an active President of the Museum and participated in all the main events). When asked about her longevity, Irina Antonova answered: “It's all about genes. My mother lived for over 100 years".
- Irina Aleksandrovna, remember your first day at the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts?
- Yes of course. I came to work at the museum in 1945, and it was very cold, uncomfortable, empty. Destroyed roof. I was sitting in felt boots, in warm clothes and almost cried. But a few months later, at the end of July, exhibits began to arrive after the evacuation and interesting activities began. Values returned from Dresden. We started doing exhibitions abroad.
- Is it true that the European holiday International Museum Day was created on your initiative?
- Yes, I pushed this holiday when I was vice-president of the International Council of Museums. My colleagues on the Presidium were at first skeptical about this proposal, but I reminded that libraries and theaters have such days. International Museum Day was established in 1977.
- How do you feel about the nationalization of private collections?
- Good. The famous nationalization took place during the Great French Revolution. The Louvre was nationalized. I believe that humanity has the right to revolution. Karl Mark said: "The revolution is the locomotive of history." The revolution marks the transition from one formation to another, but many tragic events occur. The Great October Revolution changed the whole world, and it is impossible not to admit it. I am offended when the whole Soviet history is described only in black colors.
- Do you believe in the immortality of the soul?
- I'm an atheist. The one who left did not return. At least no one saw these people. Remains the memory of a person and the results of his activities. From some this memory is insignificant, from the others - significant.
- I saw you in the museum of Marina Tsvetayeva in Borisoglebsky lane. How do you feel about poetry and the personality of Marina Tsvetayeva?
- I lived in the same house with Marina Ivanovna, where she rented a room. Pokrovsky Boulevard, 14, fraction 5 - this is the last address of Marina Tsvetayeva in her native Moscow, before leaving for Yelabuga. I read about this in the book of her sister - Anastasia Tsvetayeva. I lived in the fifth entrance, and Marina Ivanovna - in the fourth. It seems to me that I met with the son of Marina Ivanovna - Mur. Then I was 16 years old - he was about the same age and, it seems, we even talked.
- Irina Aleksandrovna, do you have any doubts that Marina Ivanovna passed away on her own initiative?
- I was interested in the circumstances of her departure, because the founder of the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts - Ivan Vladimirovich Tsvetayev - is Marina Ivanovna's dad. I am sure there is someone to blame for Tsvetayeva's premature death. There were people who knew about her problems, about the plight, and remained indifferent. Indifference is a terrible thing. If a woman, having a son, passes away, it is easy to guess how difficult it was for her. To whom did the mother's life bring the state so that she decided to commit suicide? Why did not people, writers help Marina Ivanovna? The same Pasternak with whom she corresponded and was friends? He didn't help. He just pulled back. I don't understand this indifference. There was a war and people had to unite, but Marina Ivanovna was left completely alone in an unbearable life situation. She got a job as a dishwasher in Yelabuga, but she was not even hired for this job. Who are the people who refused her this? Marina Ivanovna is terribly sorry.
Obituary of the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts :
Irina Aleksandrovna has dedicated 75 years of her life to the Pushkin Museum and has become its true symbol. During the years of her leadership, the museum turned into the most important cultural center of the country and won wide international recognition, dozens of major exhibitions were held here, the festival "December Evenings of Svyatoslav Richter", created by Irina Alexandrovna together with the great musician forty years ago, has become legendary. During the Great Patriotic War, after completing courses for nurses, I.A. Antonova worked in a hospital in Krasnaya Presnya. After graduating from Moscow State University, on April 10, 1945, she began her journey at the Pushkin Museum. A.S. Pushkin as a researcher in the Department of Western European Art. In 1946-1949, Irina Alexandrovna studied at the graduate school at the museum. At that time, the area of her scientific interests was the Italian art of the Renaissance. From February 1961 to July 2013, she served as director and then president of the museum.
In the past decades, the Pushkin Museum under the leadership of I.A. Antonova had a unique mission to open the treasures of world art culture to several generations of Russian viewers. It was Irina Aleksandrovna's bold decision that made it possible to hold the epochal exhibition “Moscow - Paris. 1900-1930 ”(1981), which, under conditions of strict ideological control, became the most important breakthrough in the reconstruction of a true picture of Russian artistic culture of the 20th century. International authority of the director of the Pushkin Museum im. A.S. Pushkin made it possible to show in Moscow the most famous work of world art - "La Gioconda" by Leonardo da Vinci (1974).
Among other exhibitions organized under the direction of Irina Antonova, it is necessary to mention "Treasures of the tomb of Tutankhamun" (1973), "Marc Chagall. To the 100th anniversary of the artist's birth ”(1987),“ World of the Etruscans ”(1990 and 2004),“ Moscow - Berlin. 1900-1950 ”(1996),“ Towards Proust ”(2001),“ Russia - Italy. Through the ages. From Giotto to Malevich "(2005)," Meeting with Modigliani "(2007)," Turner. 1775-1851 "(2008)," Alberto Giacometti "(2008) and many others.
In 1974, after a major overhaul of the museum, Irina Aleksandrovna initiated the largest project for a new museum exposition. Having overcome the criticism of the professional community, she decided to significantly reduce the exposure of casts on the second floor in order to expand the display of the collection of paintings, including works of the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists.
During the years of the management of the museum by Irina Antonova, its area has expanded significantly thanks to the transfer of a number of buildings in the adjacent quarters. It began back in 1961, when the Pushkin Museum. A.S. Pushkin received the current House of Graphics. Subsequently, Irina Aleksandrovna initiated the creation of the Museum Town, which was dreamed of by the founder of the museum, Ivan Vladimirovich Tsvetayev. Active work on the reconstruction of a number of buildings is underway now, and Irina Alexandrovna's dream will find its fulfillment in the coming years.
On the initiative of Irina Alexandrovna since 1967 at the Pushkin Museum named after A.S. Pushkin annually held a scientific conference "Vipper Readings", dedicated to the memory of the outstanding art critic Boris Robertovich Vipper. A feature of this symposium is a comprehensive examination of the problems of art and culture based on materials from the most significant exhibitions of the museum.
Irina Aleksandrovna actively contributed to the return of the forgotten names of collectors, in particular Sergei Ivanovich Shchukin and Ivan Abramovich Morozov, and also supported the initiative of Ilya Samoilovich Zilberstein, opening in January 1994 the Museum of Private Collections (now the Department of Private Collections) as part of the Pushkin Museum.
I.A. Antonova was an honorary member of the International Council of Museums, an academician of the Russian Academy of Arts, the Russian Academy of Education, an honorary doctor of the Russian State University for the Humanities (RGGU), an honored art worker of the Russian Federation.
Irina Aleksandrovna is a full holder of the Order of Merit for the Fatherland, she was awarded a number of state awards of the Soviet Union - the Orders of the October Revolution, the Order of the Red Banner of Labor, Friendship of Peoples, and also became a laureate of the State Prize of the Russian Federation in 1995 and 2017.
I.A. Antonova is Commander of the Order of Merit for the Italian Republic, Commander of the Order of Arts and Literature (France), Knight of the Order of the Legion of Honor. For her contribution to the development of cultural cooperation between Japan and Russia, she was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun (Gold and Silver Stars).
For many decades it was impossible to imagine the museum without Irina Antonova - her unyielding will and inspired enthusiasm. Until her last days, Irina Aleksandrovna lived the life of a museum, constantly participated in the discussion of long-term tasks and current projects, with her characteristic passion and consistency defending her point of view.
For comrades and colleagues, the departure of Irina Alexandrovna is a colossal personal loss, comparable to the loss of a loved one. For many, many visitors to the museum, viewers of her programs on the Kultura channel, for all the country's enlightened people, the departure of Irina Alexandrovna is the end of an era in the cultural life of Russia. For half a century of her leadership, she has shaped the modern look of the Pushkin Museum. A.S. Pushkin, brought up generations of its employees, and now the mission of the Pushkin Museum is to continue its noble work of serving high art, maintaining the connection between times and cultures.
Marina Loshak, Director of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts A.S. Pushkin:
It is difficult to imagine the Pushkin Museum without Irina Aleksandrovna Antonova, who has become its invariable component, its face, its symbol - a part of Pushkin's myth in all its manifestations. She came to the museum in 1945 as a young girl, and until today, with the exception of a few months of this year associated with the coronavirus, she came to the museum almost every day, and we are used to feeling her around. Even when we did not talk to her about business, even when we simply heard the rustling of papers or the sound of her voice outside the door of her office, we understood that she was and felt her presence. The presence of a person who is very emotional, very open, loving off the show and very strict in his attitude to life. It is difficult for me to name an institution similar to us, which would have grown so tightly with the image of a person, like the Pushkin Museum and Irina Aleksandrovna Antonova. Irina Aleksandrovna was an absolutely fearless person - fearless as a professional, fearless as a person. Throughout her professional life, she demonstrated very bright steps taken towards a new, steps of a person who is ready to take risks. These were the actions of a person who understands that business and principles are more important than everything else. This happened during the rather difficult time of Irina Alexandrovna's work in the museum - in the Soviet years, when much of what we are now accustomed to was banned, so her gains are especially valuable: the exhibition “Moscow - Paris. 1900-1930 "(1981), exhibition "Moscow - Berlin. 1900-1950" (1996), exhibitions associated with the names of the world's largest artists, the arrival of" Mona Lisa "to the museum. All this was preceded by her work during her stay at the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, the collection of the Dresden Gallery. The fate of this person by every moment of his life is directly connected with the museum history, victorious and unique. We, the staff of the museum, will greatly miss her, her uncompromising attitude to life, her honest opinion, she was openly taken before danger, her ability to distance herself from the momentary and demonstrate courage. We will miss this person who is definitely a part of us and a part of our own lives.
Irina Aleksandrovna's cause of death was acute cardiovascular failure, complicated by coronavirus infection. Irina Alexandrovna, according to her wishes, will be buried at the Novodevichy cemetery next to her mother and husband. Due to the difficult epidemiological situation, the farewell will be held in a closed format in the museum in a narrow circle of loved ones.