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This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Romanian art slowly emerges from the shadows

Bucharest’s newly-opened Museum of Art Collections is stunning – well worth the 20 year wait for its opening. 
Housed in a huge, refurbished palace on Calea Victoriei, it hosts in about 60 rooms private collections of art (in suites of rooms) which had been built up by individuals and families and then taken by the state during mainly the communist period: thus Elena and Anastase Simu Collection, the Iosif Iser Collection, the Elizabeth and Moses Weinberg Collection, the Ulmeanu Elena Collection, the Alexandru Phoebus Collection, the Hrandt Avachian collection. 
The museum boasts over 12,000 works including all artistic genres: painting, drawing, sculpture, decorative arts – most of it Romanian art and represented by artists like Nicolae Grigorescu, Stefan Luchian, Ioan Andreescu, Jean Al. Steriadi, Nicolae Tonitza Nicholas, Nicholae Darascu, Theodor Pallady, Iosif Iser and, my favourite, Stefan Popescu - shown here – 
as well as valuable pieces of folk art (icons on glass and wood, ceramics, furniture, fabrics XVIII - XIX). 
Romanian sculpture is illustrated by Oscar Han, Corneliu Medrea Milita Patrascu and Celine Emilian. European and oriental (Turkish, Persian, Japanese, Chinese) art can be seen - as well as icons, folk art, rugs (XVI - XIX), silver, porcelain and glass, furniture, miniatures. The Museum of Art Collections is a division of the National Art Museum.

It seems to take some time for the great Romanian paintings to see the light of day - unlike Bulgaria where I have found it so easy to view (and purchase) old masters in the various Sofia galleries and where I was, from the beginning, treated in a courteous and friendly way.
Not so in Bucharest whose gallery-owners for the most part are offhand if not aggressive.
It is only in recent months that I have revised my opinion of Romanian art which I had seen until now as dark and brooding if not downright ugly (eg Gheorge Petrascu). Jean Steriaid is one of my favourites - shown here.....
I owe this revision to books produced by the painter and art collector Vasile Parizescu the latest of which is a huge volume - with the great title Life as Passion - which details, with splendid pictures  the various art collections which have been developed privately in 20th Century Romania. Earlier this week, in the small antique shop in the arches of Ion Ghica street near the City Museum (you can get a great birds' eye view of the city centre by clicking on the appropriate button here), I chanced upon a large and weighty 380 page volume which itemises the incredible collection of business-man Tiberiu Postelnica (coincidentally the grandson of Ceaucescu's last Minister of the Interior and Head of the Securitate. You can imagine the process by which he came to accumulate the collection he now has and so shamelessly boasts about in this 380 page volume!!!)
But truly important collections, according to sources who wish to remain anonymous, belong to someone very discrete: for instance, the businessman Tiberiu Postelnicu owner Total Distribution & Logistics Group has a substantial art collection, with hundreds of pieces. Retired General Marius Opran, former adviser to Ion Iliescu, is known to have an important collection of art in his possession - worth 50 million euros (one of the pieces was a painting by Pissarro, "Carpenter"). Another important collector Adrian Zdrobiş businessman with a substantial collection of Romanian masters, family heritage, with dozens of pieces of Pallady Andreescu or Grigorescu.
Tonitsa is generally not a favourite of mine - but I make an exception for this nude - .
And a couple of the Grigorescus in the collection are shown below - the last being a self-portrait.

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