Known as the Russian Collection, this is one of the main art museums in Malaga. This venue not only contains some world-class paintings, but it also gives a unique insight into five centuries of Russian art. It also provides an interesting contrast to Malaga’s other art museums, mostly dominated by Spanish and modern works.
The building housing the Russian Collection is a bit of a surprise. Depending on the bus route you take to get here, you’ve been looking at modern blocks on the seafront or humbler housing in Huelin district. Either way you’re not prepared for the striking white and brick façade of the Tabacalera building.
Built in the 1920s in the style that imitates Seville colonial architecture, the Tabacalera was home to a large tobacco factory until as late as 2002. It’s a development of 11 pavilions based around patios with orange trees and fountains, and one of these pavilions hosts the Russian Collection.
The paintings on display at the Russian Museum in Malaga all come from the Russian State Museum in St Petersburg, although those displayed in the Andalucian city represent a mere drop in the ocean because there are over 400,000 artworks back in Russia.
But the nice thing about the paintings in Malaga is that they give you an excellent overview of Russian paintings from the 16th century icons to 20th century collective farms. This is a very doable collection and one that gives you just the right dose of paintings.
One of things that struck me most was the contrast between Russian court life – just about as opulent as you can possibly imagined and richly reproduced in several paintings – and the poverty of a country existence. But, here the scenes were bucolic, although as if the painters had been ‘asked’ by their royal patrons to keep the rural hardships low key or out of the picture completely.
My highlights were the moonlit harbour in Odessa by Aivazovsky, a picture of extraordinary beauty; and The Mirror by Chagall with its tiny person next to a striking purple mirror. My eyes opened wide at the graphic cruelty in Karl Brullow’s Death of Inés de Castro – the brutal stabbing is the stuff nightmares are made of and I’m sure Ines’ son next to her had plenty of those afterwards.
As well as the main collection, there’s a temporary exhibition (until July), dedicated at the moment to Diáguilev, the mastermind behind the Russian Ballet. A must for theatre and dance lovers, this exhibition showcases nearly 70 artworks themed around the great patron of the arts.
This is a museum to dip in and out of because the collection will be renewed every year so there’s a good excuse to keep going back.
How to Visit the Russian Collection
Getting there: Take the 7 bus from Paseo del Parque or Alameda North and get off at Tabacalera. Buses run around every 10-15 minutes. Cost: €1.30
Or take the 40 bus from Paseo de los Curas, get off at Princesa and walk the block north to the Tabacalera. This bus runs every hour Mon-Fri only. Cost €1.30
16 June-15 Sept Tues-Sun 11am-10pm
16 Sept-14 June Tues-Sun 9.30am-8pm
Price: €6 permanent exhibition, €4 temporary exhibition; €8 combo. Free from 4pm on Sun
More info: https://www.coleccionmuseoruso.es/
Our top tip: The Russian Museum is one of the chilliest museums we’ve ever been in so take a jumper or jacket when you visit even if it’s warm outside.