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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bringing the Souvenir Hunt in From the Cold

Whether breezing through town or settled as a more permanent fixture, most visitors in Moscow are on a perpetual search for that perfect piece of Russian folkloric art. They inevitably pay a visit to the outdoor market at Izmailovsky Park, where they fall victim to smooth-talking vendors and pay outrageous sums for items they could easily have purchased downtown without the added benefit of freezing to death.

But traditional Russian folklore, tourist knickknacks and pieces of more serious artwork are all within closer and easier reach at local khudozhestvennye salony, or art galleries, which carry virtually all of the same items to be found at Izmailovsky without any of the disadvantageous side effects. Prices are kept reassuringly fair, and the selection is usually wide enough so that browsing is actually a pleasurable and rewarding activity.

Khudozhestvennye salony, which traditionally carry standard Russian handicrafts, have always been a reliable source of touristy souvenirs, but they can also be a treasure trove of works by contemporary artists, designers and craftsmen -- which often make for more interesting and creative gifts.

When searching for that special something, however, you must have the patience to overlook some of the more unsightly visions that are part and parcel of the salon's inventory, such as woolly green potholders with pink appliqu? flowers, or drab vases molded into strange, contorted shapes.

Here is a sampling of some of the most interesting art salons around town that do not just specialize in matryoshka dolls and the overly familiar blue-and-white gzhel ceramics.

Moskovsky Fond Kultury. 16 Ulitsa Pyatnitskaya, Metro Novokuznetskaya. This tiny, musty art salon is chock full of some of the most intriguing items you will find in the city. It is also a favorite among artists. Prices are reasonable, and the salon stocks plenty of handicrafts by local artisans that might otherwise be more difficult to obtain.

Apart from a small but not uninteresting selection of the standard souvenir items, this is where you will find Georgian vases, fanciful custom jewelry and leather accessories for when you're feeling groovy. Other unusual items include a wicker candelabra that sells for 80,000 rubles ($21) and a long crocheted woolen vest that costs 215,000 rubles. Slender, jet-black ceramic vases, available in various sizes, are eye-catching and average 80,000 rubles apiece.This is also the place to find simple terra-cotta jugs in all shapes and sizes, for around 24,000 rubles.

Tsentralny Salon. 6 Ukrainsky Bulvar, Metro Kievskaya. This is the largest and most attractive of the Moscow salons, where you can find everything from oriental rugs to wicker furniture, baby cribs, and dressing tables. Two sides of the salon are devoted entirely to paintings, and, with a little effort, you might be able to find some interesting canvases at manageable prices. Keep in mind that the material changes fairly regularly, so if you see a painting you like it might not be hanging there a week later. Landscapes and still-lifes make up most of the selection; large-scale, naive renditions of Russian vistas run between 400,000 and 600,000 rubles. Colorful hand-woven rugs from Dagestan hover above the million-ruble range and are in plentiful supply.

Khudozhestvenny Salon. 12 Ulitsa Petrovka, Metro Teatralnaya. This large salon carries a more individualistic selection of handicrafts, including patchwork clothing, cast bronze figurines, and unique, if not overpriced, rings and jewelry sets. It is also a good source of art books, with an impressive selection of glossy tomes in Russian and various European languages that range from 40,000 to 60,000 rubles.

An edition of "The National Gallery of Art" at the salon costs 160,000 rubles -- much more reasonable than the 250,000 charged in other places around town.

The store's selection of paintings, while not as big as the Tsentralny's, still overflows with a variety of landscape oil paintings, some of them quite charming. Those who want to invest in a better-known artist should head toward the back, where the salon hosts a running series of exhibitions of renowned Russian painters whose works cost from 200,000 to 1 million rubles. Paintings by Anatoly Zverov will be on sale after Jan. 20.

Salon Iskusstva. 52 Bolshaya Yakimanka. This is also one of the larger establishments, which, along with perfumes, imported clothing, Italian graphics reproductions, and artists' supplies, has an impressive choice of Russian crafts.

Filigree rings embedded with lapis, jade and amber make flamboyant gifts for those partial to imposing Russian jewelry. They start at 234,000 rubles. Other items of interest include a multicolored enamel samovar, for 195,000; traditional flax napkins, for 5,200; and tablecloths, for 97,500. Porcelain dolls in national costumes cost 625,000 rubles.

Attractive lacquer boxes from the renowned Fedoskino and Palekh schools of painting are also well represented. The boxes range from 200,000 to 1 million rubles, depending on size and shape.

All of the galleries are open Monday through Saturday from approximately 10 A.M. to 7 P.M. (lunch breaks are usually from 2 P.M. to 3 P.M.). All payment is in rubles. Some of the stores have currency exchange points on the premises, but the rate is not always the best in town.