The Art of Photography Department was established in 2009. The main task of the Department is to store, collect and study unique visual materials connected with the history of photography that represent changes in artistic styles, the development of photographic techniques, and the evolution of technologies and visual language. Important areas of the Department’s activity are research practice, projects and exhibition work.
Regarding the purchase or donation of the original photographs, glass and film negatives, albums, and various printed materials, the Museum is guided by the general principles of formation of the Museum Fund of the Russian Federation. As well as the State Tretyakov Gallery, the State Historical Museum and the State Russian Museum, The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts participates in the National Photography Documents Preservation Program, included in the state funds of the Russian Federation.
The photography collection began to be formed in 1986, and was stored initially in the Manuscripts Department. In 2021, the photography fund of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts has 1940 depository items, covering the period from the 1880s to the 2010s, and includes the works by 150 photographers, both Russian and foreign, belonging to different schools and movements.
Exhibition work is based on active interaction with major international cultural institutions (museums, funds, galleries), which house the photography collections.
Exhibitions dedicated to the art of photography were organized in the museum in the early decades of the 20th century. In 1924, an Exhibition of photographs of the Russian Photographic Society was held in the museum; and in 1937 – the First All-Union Exhibition of Photographic Art, which had occupied most of the halls on the second floor of the Main Building. The large-scale project presented 319 photographers to the Soviet audience; the exposition consisted of 1586 photographs. The exhibition was visited by more than 35 thousand people. This event became especially important because new art was presented in a classical museum.
In The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts several exhibitions of famous photographers were held: the works by Josef Sudek (1985), Helmut Newton (1989), August Zander (1994), Peter Lindbergh (2002), Boris Ignatovich (2002) were on display. The project “Helmut Newton in Moscow. The Photographic Work” was unique and very courageous: at the end of the 1980s there were no specialized institutions in Russia that could show such provocative works. The artist himself came to the opening.
In 2003, the exhibition “Looking at Photographs” (100 Pictures from the Collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York) was a big success. The curator was John Szarkowsky – historian, one of the outstanding photography specialists.
Since its founding, the Department has carried out a number of projects dedicated to fine art photography, within which The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts has collaborated with such museums as The National Portrait Gallery (London); The Victoria and Albert Museum (London); The National Science and Media Museum (Bradford); The Centre Pompidou (Paris); the Israel Museum (Jerusalem); The Hara Museum of Contemporary Art (Tokyo); The National Museum of Art, Osaka; The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, as well as the Man Ray Trust (New York).
In 2012, the exhibition “Museum. The Look of the Photographer” was dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts. The project was attended by 30 famous contemporary photographers from Russia, who presented their vision of the Pushkin Museum in various genres, styles and author’s interpretations.
In 2018 The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts held for the first time a scientific conference dedicated to early photography, timed to coincide with a unique exhibition of the works by the pioneer of photography, William Henry Fox Talbot. The conference was attended by experts from the Russian Academy of Sciences, famous museums, institutions, libraries etc. A wide range of issues were considered: photography printing technology, historical and artistic aspects of studying photography, and problems of storage, restoration, identification and attribution.
The lecture hall of The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts annually hosts a series of lectures on the history and theory of world photography.
The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts held the Conference within the exhibition ‘William Henry Fox Talbot. At the Origins of Photography’ on March, 21 – March, 22, 2018.
You can learn more about conference programm and materials here.