Masterpieces by Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet, Cezanne, to go on show outside Russia for first time

PARIS (AFP) - One of the world's greatest private collections of modern art is to go on show for the first time outside Russia, museum curators told AFP on Wednesday (Feb 10).

The collection of more than 250 paintings put together by Sergei Shchukin before the Russian revolution will go display in their entirety in October at the Foundation Louis Vuitton in Paris.

The super-rich collector filled his Moscow mansion with some of the finest French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art, making a kind of Orthodox altar in one room with 16 of Gauguin's Tahiti paintings.

But his trove of 50 top-notch Picassos, 38 works by Matisse, 13 Monets, eight Cezannes and four Van Goghs that he had amassed on business trips to Paris, was seized after the October Revolution in 1917.

Lenin himself signed the decree to expropriate the works, before Stalin scattered the collection to museums in Moscow and St Petersburg, condemning some of the greatest masterpieces of 20th-century art as "bourgeois and cosmopolitan".

"This is a historic event which will have people coming from all over the world, something we are not likely to see again for a while," said Jean-Paul Claverie, an advisor to the luxury goods tycoon Bernard Arnault, who opened the private Foundation Vuitton last year.

The paintings will go on display in the spectacular building designed by the architect Frank Gehry on Oct 20, with the "Icons of Modern Art" show running till Jan 20.