Malaga's Russian Museum / karl smallman

Russian art returns to Malaga but it has nothing to do with Moscow

When Putin invaded Ukraine, the international sanctions meant that the city council’s financial agreement with the State Museum of St Petersburg, which was due to be renewed, had to be abandoned


For six months, the Russian Museum in Malaga has housed no Russian art. When Putin invaded Ukraine, the sanctions meant that the council’s agreement with the State Museum of St Petersburg, which was due to be renewed, had to be abandoned because it would have involved paying 450,000 euros a year to the Russian authorities.

The works of art were taken down and sent back to their country of origin, and paintings by Picasso took their place. However, the city’s mayor, Francisco de la Torre, said at the time that he wanted Russian works of art to be able to return to the museum and now that has been done – but without any involvement by Russia at all.

The Picasso exhibition will come to an end this month and on 22 November photographer Joan Fontcuberta will inaugurate Sputnik: The Soyuz 2 Odyssey, a project featuring the truth and the tales about Soviet cosmonaut Ivan Istochnikov and his mysterious disappearance during the space mission, which was reportedly covered up by the Russian authorities.

For Sale!

A month later, the Russian Museum will be displaying a creation by Ilya and Emilia Kabakov: a powerful installation by these conceptual artists who emigrated to the USA in the 1980s.

The Kabokov installation. / colección fundación la caixa

The piece, called For Sale! is a reconstruction of a room in an abandoned house, left with sheets covering the furniture. They created it in the 1990s. “At some time in the past the inhabitants were living quiet, organised lives and suddenly everything changed for some reason and they disappeared, leaving no trace,” Ilya has said about the work. Now, with the forced exile of thousands of Ukrainians and Russians, it has taken on new interpretations.

After that, nothing has been confirmed but the council and the Museum authorities are in talks about other potential exhibitions with a Russian theme. Whatever they are, De la Torre has promised, “they will always be high quality”.