2. Museum / History

About the Collector

Mikhail Abramov

Businessman, patron.

A native Muscovite, Mikhail Yuryevitch Abramov was born in 1963 in Tsvetnoy Bulvar. In 1981 he graduated from School No. 232 and entered the Chemistry and Technology department of the Institute of Light Industry. Turning to entrepreneurship in 1985, he opens cooperative societies for manufacturing leather and fir garments. Starting 1991 he is employed by INGOSSTRAKH (Construction services in Moscow). Since 2000 he has been holding the position of Deputy CEO of Moscow Insurance Company.

It was only a short time ago, in the early 2000’s, that Mikhail Abramov started collecting icons. Although at its early stages the acquisition of the monuments of the Old Russian art was quite chaotic, the collector soon became conscious of the particular character of his mission which was not to create another private collection which would be, as a rule, almost inaccessible even to specialists, but to open a genuine art museum which would conform to the requirements that distinguish the state depositaries of the monuments of the Old Russian art. Therefore the formation of the collection, based on the scientific approach to preservation, restoration, exhibition and study of icon painting, almost immediately surpassed the framework of a typical private collection. Mikhail Abramov’s idea to create the Museum of Russian Icon, which, according to the intention of the founder, shall become not a temporary collection of old relics and monuments but a genuine depositary of the works of the Old Russian art, resurrects one of the best traditions of the Russian patronage which once led to the artistic discovery of the Russian icon. As the collector himself likes to say, he is only a temporary keeper of the monuments which in reality are the heritage of the nation and the country.
A detailed interview with Mikhail Abramov was published in the Russkoye Iskusstvo magazine (year 2010, issue 4).
At the present day the Museum of Russian Icon is one of the largest private collections with more than 4000 museum pieces.
In the period from 1850’s to 1930’s a large number of different museums was founded, and their amount, diversity and richness brought Russia world-wide recognition. This phenomenon, whether it took place in the period of the country’s prosperity at the turn of the XX century, when it was due not so much to the effort of the state as to that of the private collectors, or in the years of dramatic collisions, coups d'état, revolutions, always reflected the obvious aspiration of the noble minds of their times to preserve and study the heritage of the national history and culture, and make it attractive and accessible to the general public. Clearly, not many could manage this kind of activity without the active support and assistance from the state. It was only possible for eminent collectors and patrons, but still these private collections would usually pass into the hands of the state with the time.
During the second half of the XX-th century very few new museums of the Old Russian art, if we don’t count the culture preserves of the traditional wooden architecture and local history collections, were opened. The largest of them was the Andrey Rublev Museum of Old Russian Art, founded in Moscow in 1947, and its foundation, as it seemed, completed the process of creation of the main depositaries of the national artistic heritage. In the recent years there remain even less grounds for the appearance of new museums, considering the disastrous situation in Russia. The new policy and a number of ill-considered, even anti-cultural decisions and acts of law have jeopardized the very existence of the state depositaries of the Old Russian art, undermined the authority of the museum workers and the work of an entire generation of the Russian cultural workers who devoted their lives to the rescue of monuments of culture and creation of the appropriate conditions to preserve and study them. On the background of all these twits and turns of history which, as it usually happens, put a severe strain on the national culture and heritage, the opening of the museum of the Old Russian art, founded and supported by a private collector, has become an unexpected and greatly appreciated event. On January 25, 2011 the new museum building, renovated and equipped with the museum requirements in mind, opened its doors in Goncharnaya street in Moscow offering everyone the opportunity to experience the beautiful pieces of the unique collection.