Paris show of Impressionist masterpieces never seen in West

The Fondation Louis Vuitton,  at a 19th-century garden in Bois de Boulogne, a public park.
The Fondation Louis Vuitton, at a 19th-century garden in Bois de Boulogne, a public park. PHOTO: IWAN BAAN

Paris (AFP) - One of the world's greatest private collections of modern art is to be shown outside Russia for the time, exhibition organisers said on Tuesday.

The Louis Vuitton Foundation gallery in Paris, which had a smash hit earlier this year with another rarely seen Russian collection of early 20th-century masters, said the paintings amassed by the Morozov brothers will shown in the French capital in 2020.

Moscow industrialists Mikhail and Ivan Morozov collected a staggering trove of paintings by Van Gogh, Cezanne, Renoir and Monet before the Russian revolution.

Some 200 canvasses including those by Matisse, Picasso, Bonnard, Maurice Denis and Derain will go on show in Paris for four months, the foundation said.

More than 1.2 million people flocked to see Icons Of Modern Art, a show drawn from the equally eye-catching collection of Sergei Shchukin, who was once the Morozov brothers' great rival.

Such huge numbers flocking to the modest-sized private gallery, paid for by fashion tycoon Bernard Arnault and designed by architect Frank Gehry, caused a stir.

"The Morozovs and the Shchukins... dominated Moscow's cultural life at the beginning of the 20th century, and helped contribute to the international recognition of French model painters," the foundation said in a statement.

But the art collections of both families were seized by the Soviet state after the revolution.

The Morozovs' collection, which is now split between the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, the Tretyakov State Gallery and Pushkin Museum in Moscow, was regarded at the time as even more discerning than Shchukin's.

It also includes works by Russian artists.

Mr Jean-Paul Claverie, art advisor to LVMH boss Arnault, the head of the Louis Vuitton Foundation, said the Morozovs' art has never been shown together on such a scale anywhere since it was seized.

"This is a major international event at the same level as the Shchukin show," he added.

The Shchukin and Morozov exhibitions will travel back to Russia for shows in St Petersburg and Moscow at a later date, the foundation said.

The exhibition is the fruit of years of negotiations between Mr Arnault and the Russian authorities, with a partnership agreement signed last year between the foundation and the Hermitage and Pushkin museums.