Now in its fourth year, the Russian Museum in Malaga has welcomed yet another totally new exhibition. Saints, Queens & Workers arrived in February along with the temporary Russian Female Artists. Taking an extensive look at Russian women in art, both as subjects and artists, the new exhibition offers another unique insight into Russian art and life. As usual, curation is excellent and there’s a mixture of paintings, sculptures and objects plus some excellent videos.
On show at the museum until February 2020 (the new 2020 exhibition opens on 25 March), the exhibition is unique in Spain and gives visitors a chance to not only see some exceptional art works but also an insight into Russian history. Read on to discover more about the latest exhibition and why it’s well worth adding to your list of things to see in Malaga.
Women in art
The Russian Museum has taken women as its central theme for the 2019 exhibition, in response to the rise in awareness of equality in 2018 and the #MeToo campaign. The Saints, Queens & Workers exhibition is divided into three groups of women.
The Virgin Mary plays a central part in Russian society as the patron of Russia and is represented time and time again in icons. Queens (empresses) move into the limelight in Russian history in the 100 years between 1725 and 1825 before women earn the same rights as men from 1717.
The very first exhibition at the Russian Museum in Malaga opened with a collection of icons, one of the symbols of Russian art. This year’s exhibition includes a further selection, some as old as the 15th century, but all depicting women.
Mother of God of Tenderness (first third of 16th century)
The Virgin appears in most of them and in some paintings she is joined by St Anastacia, the protector of women’s work and St Paraskeva, the patron of travellers.
The exhibition then moves to work in the fields and Russian peasant women feature on all the paintings. Highlights for us here include the selection of costumes and headdresses – the veil of Qanawat silk from the 18th century is exquisite, and Tanya (at the Fence).
Tanya (at the fence)
Almost as a premonition of the Soviet era, red dominates the paintings in this section. It’s also one of the cheeriest – all the portraits smile at you.
All the colours disappear in this room where lace, frills and brocades fill the portraits. Hardly any of these noble women smile either even though they obviously have money and plenty of it. See for yourself in the lovely tea service for one in gold on porcelain.
The exhibition then moves out of the fields and mansions into the Russian court. A world of intrigue, coups and murders shadow the footsteps of all the empresses who (nevertheless) stand proud in some of the largest paintings on show.
Ermine, silk, blue sashes galore and yards of pearls adorn these ladies, many from German royal houses. There’s also a display of stunning vases from the Imperial Porcelain Factory at St Petersburg, all depicting noble Russian women.
The paintings next take an abrupt turn and focus on a woman’s lot in Russia. The contrast couldn’t be greater as the works focus on the trails of matrimony. Examining the Bride is particularly chilling as is the sinister figure of the father-in-law leering at the new wife of his son. Further grief comes in the depiction of convenience marriages and young widows.
A woman’s drudgery also features. The painting of women sorting feathers is a work of art and you almost choke on the dust as you view it.
Women as models
The following two rooms look at women at artists’ models. Several striking modern portraits stand tall, all anonymous. The enigmatic Siberian Woman, the defiant Mrs Z and the mysterious Lady in Blue.
The anonymity continues in the Nudes section that includes an interesting trompe l’oeil from the late 18th century. The modern Beauty painted by Arkadi Petrov in 1980 takes centre stage on the back wall.
Women as the artists themselves
The final section includes portraits of Russian women artists, painters and dancers. The photography section is particularly stunning – most are in black and white and offer real insight into the modern and old in contemporary society in Russia.
Temporary exhibition at the Russian Museum in Malaga
The first temporary exhibition this year continues the theme of women and celebrates Russian female artists. Between Tradition and the Avant-Garde, the works include paintings, ceramics, sculptures, fashion and installations, all created by women.
The first piece by each artist includes a short biography of the artist, where she studied her art and the most important milestones in her life. We particularly liked Three Smiles and Study of a Girl.
This exhibition takes you from 19th century Russia when the St Petersburg Drawing School opened a Women’s Department to the 1980s. Soviet themes pop up a lot in the middle – New Way of Life from 1924 is a good example – as does Cubism in Non-Objective Composition.
Russian Museum in Malaga – practicalities
Getting to the Russian Museum
You can walk to the Russian Museum along the western seafront. Allow just over half an hour from the Alameda Principal. Or you can take the No 7 bus from Plaza de la Marina to the Tabacalera stop – the journey takes 30 minutes.
The Russian Museum opens Tuesday to Sunday from 9.30am to 8pm.
The Radiant Future €6
Temporary Exhibition €4
Free admission on Sundays after 5pm
The Russian Museum is fully accessible.
Time to allow for visit
Allow at least an hour to see Saints, Queens & Workers, longer if you watch all the videos.
Café and restaurant
The café inside the Russian Museum serves tasty coffee and infusions plus a good range of cakes and snacks. They also do a menu of the day (choice of 2 starters and mains) for €9.80.
On the nearby western seafront there are lots of excellent fish restaurants and cafés.
This is one of the great museums in Malaga. Discover all the others and decide which to visit while you’re on holiday in the city. And keep up to date with latest exhibitions and events at Malaga museums with our free fortnightly newsletter.