Now in its fifth year, the Russian Museum in Malaga has welcomed yet another totally new exhibition. Realism: Past & Present. Art & Truth opened in late June. Taking an extensive look at realism in Russian art, both in paintings and sculptures, the new exhibition offers another unique insight into Russian everyday life. As usual, curation is excellent and there’s a mixture of paintings, sculptures and objects, some of which are so modern that they were created this year.
On show at the museum until April 2021, the exhibition is unique in Spain and gives visitors a chance to see some exceptional art works and get an insight into life in Russia. 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.
Realism in Russian art
The exhibition looks at the depiction of everyday life in Russian art from the early 19th century to the present day (one of the paintings is from this year). As you’d expect, still life makes a big appearance as do portraits. While some of the works could be from any country, certain sections (particularly Scenes from Life) are uniquely Russian. There are also occasional nods to the Soviet regime, but far fewer than previous exhibitions. And as always, you are treated to a feast of fine art works quite unlike any others in western European museums. Of the five annual exhibitions at the Museum, this is one of our favourites so far.
Exhibitions at the Russian Museum in Malaga have in the past opened with a collection of older paintings – icons in particular have featured. But this year’s exhibition starts with a more modern approach with 2 rooms full of still life paintings and sculptures.
The first paintings reminded us a bit of the Juan Gris on show at the Pompidou Centre this year with palettes instead of guitars, but the exhibition then moves on to birds and food. Vegetarians might want to give the large wall packed with paintings of slabs of meat a miss, but the giant canvas of bacon slices makes compelling viewing. Michael Hazil’s Pepper is magnificent and I loved the bronze Sausage sculpture and the Encyclopedia of Sandwiches.
There’s just a handful of paintings depicting real life inside Russia. Stately homes and palaces make an appearance here – they could easily have popped out of a Tolstoy novel – as do artists’ studios.
“Realism plus pimples is Naturalism and Naturalism minus pimples is Realism.” Pavel Filonov, artist, 1936
This section includes a eclectic collection of older paintings – Vigilius Eriksen’s Hundred year-old inhabitant with her family dates back to 1771 – and works that couldn’t be more modern. We move from the aristocracy to merchants, from miners to peasants. Easily the most dramatic painting here is From the Zero People Series 2019-2020 by Ilya Gaponov whose miners take up an entire wall.
Scenes from Life
A more familiar Russia emerges here as the exhibition shows us reality at home and at work. Earlier pictures depict the cruelty of madness and the sorrow of a funeral while Soviet Realism comes through in the drudgery of labour in the steel factories and pavement building. Several massive canvases take centre stage in the rooms here – again, excellently curated and with stunning back colours to complement.
This section also includes the exhibition’s signature work, Queue by Alexei Sundukov plus a dose of state farms worked by rosy women.
The final section was my favourite because of the innovativeness of the art works. Snow features a lot as does the sea and you get a real sense of the beauty of Russia in this part of the exhibition. Several sculptures in wood and bronze also depict the scenery – Reflection in the Lake by Oleg Zhogin (below) is particularly beautiful.
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 the Alameda Principal to the Tabacalera stop – the journey takes 30 minutes.
The Russian Museum opens Tuesday to Sunday from 9.30am to 8pm.
Realism: Past & Present €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 Realism: Past & Present.
Café and restaurant
Note that the café and shop are currently closed because of covid-19 restrictions.
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.