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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tretyakov Opening Delayed

The long-awaited reopening of Moscow's Tretyakov Gallery, which had been due to take place Thursday after a 10-year restoration and modernization project, has been postponed due to flooding and is now unlikely before next spring, according to a senior gallery official.


Lidia Iovleva told The Moscow Times this week that the first heavy snow in late November had exposed a defect in the roof of the new building, which had brought water pouring down the walls of the exhibition halls.


"The superficial damage has been cleared up," she said Wednesday. "But the problem is far more serious and could take weeks to deal with. We hope a new opening date will be decided next week, but it will not be before next spring in any case."


Another source within the Tretyakov, who declined to be named, attributed the recent flooding to a different cause. According to this theory, one of the workmen hanging or taking down a painting dropped a glove down a pipe. The pipe became blocked and caused the flood.


Luckily none of the paintings, many of which were specially restored for the reopening, were damaged, but the staff is understandably anxious to avoid a similar catastrophe. Iovleva has demanded a "state commission" to ensure the gallery is eventually protected by a watertight roof.


If that is what the Tretyakov eventually gets, it may prove to be the exception rather than the rule in Moscow. At the Museum of Decorative and Folk Art, for example, the roof often leaks in winter. When it does, museum personnel are told to send someone onto the roof to clear away the snow.


The members of the Tretyakov staff said they were dismayed at the further delay, especially since many have been working flat out for the scheduled December deadline. They also sympathize with their new director, Valentin Rodionov, whose primary task on appointment was to open the gallery.


In that this has yet to be realized, both the director and his staff are acutely aware that the opening of the Tretyakov is becoming something of a joke within the city.


This mockery is not completely justified. The time taken to complete the work, as well as certain architectural details, may leave something to be desired, but in many respects the restoration of the Tretyakov is exemplary, and the hanging is logical and intelligent.


The interiors are immaculately decorated. The lighting, often a torment in Russian art galleries, is not yet fully functional but seems promising. And for the first time ever all the labels are translated into English, as are the new explanatory boards in each gallery.


To the casual observer everything seems ready. Even the fearsome babushkas who keep watch in each room are in place. But, as the eminent art historian Dmitry Sarabyanov says, the Tretyakov seems to be cursed. With the earliest estimate of its reopening now March 1995, it is doomed to another three months of standing empty.