The Victoria and Albert Museum is not renowned for its Russian art collections. It is, however, hosting the only British showing of a large touring exhibition devoted to medieval Russian art already seen in Baltimore, Princeton, Dallas, Memphis and Chicago (until 3 January). The V&A is part-funding the London showing, which is sponsored by three organisations who have commercial interests in Russia. These are the tobacco group BAT Industries, the diamond merchants De Beers and the Swiss independent company Marc Rich and Co AG. Mr Rich, a Swiss commodities broker, is involved in Russia's oil production, as well as having recently been granted a franchise to supply electricity to parts of Russia. This is basically a pre-packaged show, which will cost the museum little. The London showing will, however, have its own design. This will pick up on the colours found in the works of art, emphasising gold, green and reds. The ninety-six or so works of art are drawn entirely from the State Russian Museum, St Petersburg (co-organisers of the exhibition with the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore) and are selected to provide an overview of the development of medieval Russian art from the tenth to the early eighteenth century. Icons, textiles, goldsmiths' work are the principal categories. The exhibition is co-curated by Tanya Vilinbakhova, curator of Old Russian paintings at the State Russian Museum and Roderick Grierson of InterCultura, a Texan cultural organisation which has organised large exhibitions in the US, but not previously in Britain. The exhibition is accompanied by a disappointingly old-fashioned and curiously stilted catalogue which makes little of the treasures it describes.
Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Holy Russia at the V&A'