MOSCOW — A rare exhibition of masterpieces from Soviet art collections will be displayed next year in Washington and Los Angeles under the new Soviet-American cultural pact signed at the Geneva summit, American industrialist Armand Hammer announced Friday.
Forty impressionist and post-impressionist works from the Hermitage in Leningrad and the Pushkin Museum in Moscow will open a two-month exhibition on May 1 at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, followed in late July by another two-month engagement at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
In return, 40 impressionist and post-impressionist paintings from the National Gallery will be displayed at the Hermitage starting Feb. 1. In addition, paintings and drawings from Hammer's private art collection also will be exhibited at the Hermitage. The Hammer collection works will then move on to the Pushkin Museum and to galleries in two or three other cities in the Soviet Union.
Art Exchange Signing
The art exchange was signed by Hammer, chairman and chief executive officer of Los Angeles-based Occidental Petroleum Corp., and Yevgeny V. Zaitsev, the Soviet first deputy culture minister.
Hammer, who was attending a U.S.-Soviet business conference here this week, said in a written statement, "This is an unprecedented exchange of art treasures . . . that would not have been possible without the cultural agreement" signed by President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev at their meeting last month in Geneva.
Hammer said he had been trying for two years to arrange this type of art exchange, adding that the Soviet government hadrefused to consider it without a cultural agreement.
The exhibition traveling to the United States is composed of paintings by seven major artists. A preliminary list includes nine of Paul Gauguin's Tahitian scenes; six canvases from the Hermitage's stunning collection of works by Henri Matisse; eight landscapes, still lifes and portraits by Paul Cezanne; three landscapes by Claude Monet; three portraits by Pierre August Renoir; three works by Vincent Van Gogh, and eight canvases by Pablo Picasso encompassing his Cubist work and examples of his later styles.
Highlights include Matisse's "Red Room," "The Capucines at the Dance" and "Bouquet of Flowers on the Veranda"; Picasso's "Portrait of Ambroise Vollard" and Monet's "Lady in a Garden," according to Neill Heath, press officer at the National Gallery.
Showing in Switzerland
A similar group of Soviet-owned artworks traveled in 1983 to Villa Favorita, the home and museum of German industrialist Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza in Lugano, Switzerland. Hammer visited the well-attended show and Thyssen sent a catalogue to Earl A. Powell, director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
"Dr. Hammer asked me later what I would choose if I could have anything from the Soviet Union," Powell said, recalling their conversation about the unusual loan of impressionist treasures. "I said I would like something that equaled that exhibition's rarity and quality. The forbidden fruits of the Soviet collections are really quite extraordinary."
Another group of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings by 14 artists were loaned to the National Gallery and the County Museum of Art in 1973. Heath said that a few of those works would return in the coming exhibition, but "no more than half a dozen."
"This is not a repeat at all," Powell said. "This is the real show; the first one was just hors d'oeuvres. This is a deeper and richer assembly of pictures. Previous exhibitions have not been of this caliber."
The Soviet museums will be lent works from the National Gallery's collection of Cezanne, Edgar Degas, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Edouard Manet, Monet, Picasso, Renoir, Henry Rousseau, Camille Pissarro and others.
The total value of the artworks involved in the exchange, Hammer said, would run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. "They are figuratively priceless," he said.
William J. Eaton reported from Moscow and Suzanne Muchnic reported from Los Angeles.