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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

epic renovation of tretyakov ends

In the newly renovated exhibition halls of the State Tretyakov Gallery, dozens of priceless 19th-century paintings by Russian masters from Vasily Vereshchagin to Alexander Ivanov lie flat on the floor next to forklifts and spools of wire.

Vereshchagin's "Apotheosis of War," which shows a pile of skulls left behind by Tamerlane's armies, leans against the wall as workmen drill holes in an enormous empty frame nearby.

What looks at first glance like the lid of an enormous wooden packing crate taking up much of one hall is Ivanov's "Appearance of Christ to the People," lying face down on the floor, waiting to be hoisted onto the wall by orange metal arms.

Museum staffers working to mount exhibits Tuesday greet the emerging paintings as old friends that Muscovites have not seen since the Tretyakov closed nine years ago for renovations that have restored the facade designed by Viktor Vasnetsov in 1891, added 10 halls and installed modern lighting and climate control.

Finally, the gallery's epic renovation is complete and it remains only for the paintings to be rehung before the building will again be open to visitors.

"For the people who were separated from these paintings when we closed nine years ago, this is an enormous holiday for the soul," said Aleksei Kovalyov, the Tretyakov's head restorer, who has worked in the museum for 40 years.

Yevgeny Sidorov "rarely came here, though we shouldn't say that of the culture minister," Kovalyov said. "But when he walked through the halls earlier today, he was saying, 'Vereshchagin is in his old place, Vrubel is in his old place.' He was almost in tears."

Work is complete in the Vasnetsov room, where the artist's most famous work, "Bogatyry" or "Warriors" is restored to its rightful place. The painting's three grand Russian warriors look proudly out of a broad steppe landscape into a sea-green room where soft, even light filters down from ceiling fixtures made to look like skylights.

Mounting the rest of the exhibits is expected to take until at least November.

The enlargement of exhibition space and a decision to move all 20th-century works to the gallery's white, boxy modern wing on Krymsky Val will allow the display of many paintings never before shown for lack of space.

In addition, a new pedestrian bridge will connect museum goers with parking space on an island in the nearby Moskva River.