The opening of exhibition "Henry Moore and the classic canon of modern sculpture", 21 February 2012
Paul de Quincey, who directs the British Council in Russia, writes about the reciprocity of art and international relations – the latest example being the Henry Moore exhibition at the Kremlin Museums in Moscow, which opened on 21 February 2012.
I was lucky enough to be part of a monumental event in Moscow this week – the opening of the Henry Moore exhibition at the Kremlin Museums. No big deal, I hear you say. We do that all the time. Let me explain.
Although relatively small by Moore standards, a display inside the Kremlin by arguably Britain’s greatest and best known sculptor will not go unnoticed.
The museums are right next to the Presidential Palace, and an integral part of the Kremlin complex. Nothing happens here without very explicit agreement.
It is also significant that this is the first ever exhibition of ‘modern’ art to be put on in the Kremlin Museums.
But this was a big deal for us for another reason: it underlined our long-term role in the internationalisation of British art and artists.
Moore was undoubtedly a genius who has inspired, and will continue to inspire, generations of artists. He would have done so without our help, but it is obvious to anyone connected with him, that he was deeply grateful to the British Council for championing his work around the world.
That’s why he donated so many works to our collection. The relationship was important to him, as it has been to artists of all persuasions throughout our 77 years of existence.
The relationships that we forge and maintain both in the UK and overseas over many years play a crucial part in this.
The Henry Moore Foundation and Henry Moore’s family were both fulsomely represented at the opening – the foundation, as the primary lender of most of the works, by its director Richard Calvocoressi, and the family by Mary Moore, the artist’s daughter, as the source of the most original insights into her father’s life and work.
In Russia, Yuri Gagarin’s daughter, Elena Gagarina, who presided over the development and opening of this wonderful exhibition as Director of the Kremlin Museums, had also been known to us for a long time.
Last July, she unveiled her father’s statue outside our office in London, but our first connection with her was when she was a curator in the world-famous Pushkin Museum, where we currently have a William Blake exhibition.
One of the things she did when she worked there was to curate the first exhibition in Russia of Henry Moore’s work. That was 21 years ago.
Perhaps it’s just a coincidence, but for me, 21 years later, this exhibition is a sort of ‘coming of age’ in our relationship with Moore and Moscow.
I would also like to think that it is an example of what can happen when we play the role, within the arts, that we are best at: creating international relationships for British art on the one hand and exchanging art to strengthen international ties on the other.